Millions watched NFL player, Damar Hamlin have a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) last night on live TV. Based on the video of the event, and without any knowledge whatsoever if he had an underlying risk, it appears to be an episode of Commotio Cordis. Commotio Cordis does not require cardiac disease. It is caused by induction of ventricular fibrillation by a cardiac trauma timed during the vulnerable period of the cardiac electrical cycle.
More important than speculation of the mechanism of this tragic sudden cardiac arrest is understanding when this could occur and in whom. It is critical to understand that SCA occurs in all ages and not just in elite athletes. SCA occurs in children who are in competitive athletics, in children who are recreational athletes, and in those who are not athletes at all.
Thankfully, Damar received immediate medical attention and CPR from a paramedic squad. Our thoughts are with Damar and the Hamlin family and we hope for an excellent outcome.
We would like to use this opportunity, as devastating as it is, as a call to action to prevent sudden cardiac death in our youth who are not in our hospital, who attend our school, who play sports, and who play in our playgrounds and parks.
The best path to achieve this is through community prevention- education, awareness, CPR training, and immediate availability of defibrillation with an AED.
Unfortunately, in our state, there is no legislation to require an AED in schools. No school, or building anywhere would be without fire extinguishers placed for immediate access and tested regularly to make sure they work. No school would ever go through a school year without multiple fire drills. Yet, preparation for a sudden cardiac arrest in a child sadly only comes as an afterthought when a tragedy occurs.
The Duke Pediatric & Congenital Heart Center is a proud affiliate of Project ADAM, a community outreach program supporting the implementation of Heart Safe initiatives. As a Project ADAM affiliate site, we strive to assist schools and communities in establishing a practiced plan to respond to a sudden cardiac arrest. We provide the foundation for a school to develop and sustain their program, including planning templates, a reference manual and one-on-one consultation.
Your advocacy in our community is critically important for change and perhaps the ‘good’ of this terrible event is the seed for change.
If your school is interested in learning more about Project ADAM and becoming heart safe, please email:ProjectAdamNC@duke.edu