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This life-saving medical device isn’t required at all schools. Damar Hamlin wants to help change that

By Carma Hassan, CNN

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin said Wednesday that when he played football as a child, he never thought about CPR or where there might be an automated external defibrillator (AED) nearby.

At an event on Capitol Hill, the NFL player shared facts he learned after he went into cardiac arrest and collapsed on the field during a game in January.

“Sudden cardiac arrest happens to more than 7,000 kids under the age of 18 every year in our country — 7,000 kids every year. The majority of the kids impacted are student-athletes, and research shows that 1 in every 300 youth has an undetected heart condition that puts them at risk. For schools that have AEDs, the survival rate for the children from sudden cardiac arrest is seven times higher,” Hamlin said.

Hamlin joined Reps. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, D-Fla., and Bill Posey, R-Fla., to highlight the Access to AEDs Act, a bipartisan bill introduced in the US House this week. It would establish a grant program to provide schools with the funds to purchase and maintain AEDs, strengthen CPR training and develop cardiac emergency response plans, Cherfilus-McCormick said.

“The Access to AEDs Act will help ensure that schools are just as prepared and trained to respond in the time of crisis as those on the sidelines of an NFL game,” Hamlin said.

Also at the event was Matthew Mangine Sr., who lost his 16-year-old son, Matthew Jr., in 2020.

The teen, a soccer player at St. Henry District High School in Erlanger, Kentucky, collapsed from sudden cardiac arrest on the soccer field during practice.

“There were five AEDs on campus, yet no one retrieved an AED to apply to Matthew due to a lack of proper training. And because the coach was never given an emergency action plan nor was told where the nearest AED was — which was 250 feet away — by the time the ambulance arrived, it was too late. We lost our beautiful firstborn son,” Mangine said.

People often find out about heart conditions too late, Posey said, and this is one way to help effect change.

“There’s a lot of ways that young people can die, and there’s very few ways that we can actually get engaged to prevent those deaths,” he said.

Hamlin did not discuss his future in football on Wednesday but previously told “Good Morning America” that he is “doing great” physically but “still working through things” emotionally.

The cause of his cardiac arrest has not been determined, but Dr. Thom Mayer, medical director of the NFL Players Association, said last month that Hamlin “will play professional football again.”

Hamlin has also partnered with the American Heart Association on a campaign to increase CPR awareness and education.

“Having community members trained in CPR, making AEDs available in schools and encouraging the development of emergency response plans will make schools better prepared to respond to sudden cardiac arrest and save lives,” association CEO Nancy Brown said in a statement about the bill.

On Monday, the NFL announced the Smart Heart Sports Coalition, a joint effort with other professional sports leagues, the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross to promote emergency action plans, accessible AEDs, and CPR and AED training for coaches at high schools.

In a video at Wednesday’s event, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league is also proud to support the Access to AEDs Act.

Hamlin’s recovery is “an inspiration,” he said, and the legislation and coalition “no doubt will save countless lives of young athletes in the future.”

“We look forward to getting this bill signed into law as soon as possible,” he added.

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