I admit initially I wondered slightly about the seemingly over-the-top amount of attention being paid to the condition of Demar Hamlin. Demar is the Buffalo Bills safety who suffered a complete cardiac arrest last Sunday as millions of viewers looked on during the nationally broadcast NFL game.
Demar made what appeared to be an ordinary tackle on a receiver for the opposing team, Tee Higgins. Higgins had caught a pass and was running for extra yardage when the collision occurred. Realizing he was going to be hit, Higgins lowered his shoulder to meet the oncoming tackle from Demar Hamlin.
For those who don’t follow football, this play was about as routine as it could be. There was nothing unusual about the play, the yardage gained by the receiver, or the tackle. The fact that the receiver seemed to lower his shoulder so that he may have hit Demar more forcefully than Demar hit him was also completely ordinary. Most players who realize they are about to be hit will take whatever action possible to protect themselves and the ball. The receiver did absolutely nothing wrong or illegal during the play.
It appears that what occurred was a circumstance so rare I imagine most people have never heard of it. As of this writing, the medical personnel involved in Demar’s care and treatment believe he suffered what is known as commotio cordis. I love sports and had heard of this but only twice when a baseball player had been hit in the chest with a baseball. It didn’t look like the hit Demar absorbed was unusually hard. Apparently, for this extremely rare event to occur the contact must be at an exact point in the cycle, or rhythm of a heartbeat. Hence, the rarity.
Several things went unusually wrong for this sequence of events to unfold as it did. But for Demar, thankfully, then several things went very right. There were numerous highly trained medical professionals from both teams available, along with a defibrillator, and an ambulance on the premises which is standard at NFL games due to the hard-hitting nature of the game.
But this was no ordinary football injury, the kind we are accustomed to seeing during NFL games. This wasn’t a head injury, not to minimize the seriousness of those, or a fracture, ruptured tendon, etc. Usually, with help from the trainers, most players eventually get up and limp off. At worst they might be taken off on a stretcher, but often are able to wave to the crowd. It was quickly apparent something was drastically wrong, this was no ordinary football injury. Players were openly crying and praying. The Universal looks of distress were not a vision I recall ever seeing during a football game.
Demar was taken away in the ambulance to a nearby hospital with a reputation for excellence. The public seemed mesmerized by this story, hanging on any and every news update on his condition. Would he survive? Be brain-damaged due to lack of oxygen if he did? Why were people so invested in the outcome for this young man?
I think it was due to a combination of factors. For starters, this bizarre event occurred on national television in front of millions of viewers who watched it unfold in real-time. And it was replayed on seemingly every network thousands of times for those who may have missed the live broadcast. It quickly became clear that Demar was a genuinely nice young man. Videos surfaced of him in interviews discussing how important his parents were to him. He didn’t make important decisions without consulting them. He’s a fashion plate, works hard, and had an opportunity to start this year due to another player’s injury.
His smile is infectious. What’s not to like about Demar? Absolutely nothing. In an era when we so often see the worst behavior imaginable from professional athletes, Demar is a breath of fresh air. He established a toy drive several years ago to help children in need. It’s human nature, I think, to want to help when something tragic happens. It helps us feel a little better to do something, anything, that might contribute to the improvement of deserving individuals. As word spread about the existence of his toy drive, people throughout the world began donating to it. To date, the little toy drive has now raised $8.6 million!
Demar and his family have filed the necessary paperwork to make this a 501C foundation. Imagine how many people will benefit from the generosity of those who have contributed. All because of a thoughtful young man, who had a vision several years ago that would help children in need, never imagining himself in need of expert medical attention, and the prayers millions have offered for his recovery.
We had the spectacle of an embarrassingly incompetent Congress last week, so annoyed with each other they could form no consensus. Finally, they elected a leader who gave away the kitchen sink to gain the speakership. What a dismal feeling it was to experience their antics. The distraction of daily good news concerning Demar was a blessing, and it kept getting better.
When Demar was able to communicate he made it clear he appreciated the millions of prayers offered on his behalf and asked that they please continue. In order for Demar to recover from a near-death experience, he needed the expert medical care he has received, along with the countless prayers that continue. As it stands, it appears his needs have been met and will continue to be.
But what about those of us who hung on every report, each update available about Demar? We needed something too. We needed a break from political drama and theatre. Regardless of our personal opinions, no one could have been happy or proud about the spectacle playing out in Washington throughout the week. People in this country have been at each other’s throats for years now. The behavior of some of our representatives last week was just as bad, worse, actually.
The thing about watching Demar improve, and the ever-mounting total for his foundation was that despite the fact that I knew all of these millions of people who were praying for Demar, and contributing to his foundation couldn’t possibly be in total agreement concerning politics, they were in agreement about their concern for Demar. It gave me hope not only for Demar but also for our country. I was reminded that when we all share a common concern, we are nearly invincible. Money has the same value regardless of who offers it, and God hears all prayers.
That’s why I think we, as a nation, needed Demar more than he needed us. For once, everyone was in agreement. We all wanted to see Demar recover, and if we could make a small contribution to his recovery with a prayer or a few dollars, that was even better. We were in unison. If we can stop and think about how we all felt about Demar, why can’t we take a breath and think about how wonderful it feels to work together for the best result possible? God works in mysterious ways. Demar unintentionally taught us a lesson through his injury. Can we continue working together to solve our problems? It worked out well for Demar when we did. Let us now help ourselves.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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