While still in critical condition, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin had his breathing tube removed on Friday and is able to breathe on his own while also being able to talk to family and his medical staff, according to the team.
This comes on the heels of the “substantial progress” doctors caring for him announced on Thursday.
Hamlin’s first written question after waking up for the first time since suffering cardiac arrest and being administered CPR on the field during Monday night’s postponed game with the Bengals was, “Did we win?”
“The answer is yes, Damar, you won. You won the game of life,” Dr. Timothy Pritts told reporters Thursday.
Hearing about Hamlin’s question provided a tremendous lift to his Bills teammates, Josh Allen said during a press conference after the team’s practice.
“Did we win? As teammates you love hearing that response,” the Bills quarterback said. “It wasn’t ‘poor me’, it was how are my teammates doing? That’s powerful in itself.”
Pritts said Hamlin’s progress has been significant.
“He’s made substantial improvement. It appears his neurological condition and function is intact,” Pritts said. “We are very proud to report that this marks a really good turning point in his ongoing care.”
Earlier on Thursday, the Bills delivered a similar message.
“While still critically ill, [Hamlin] has demonstrated that he appears to be neurologically intact,” the Bills wrote in their statement. “His lungs continue to heal, and he is making steady progress. We are grateful for the love and support we have received.”
On Monday night against Cincinnati, Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest and had his heartbeat restored on the field after getting hit in the chest. Medical staff performed CPR and resuscitation for nine minutes before an ambulance took him to University of Cincinnati hospital, where he has remained.
Neurological signs of improvement began Wednesday night, Pritts said, as Hamlin was beginning to awaken. He was still on a ventilator and under sedation for the breathing tube at this time.
“When we talk about neurologically intact, it’s a very gross term of big motor movements and following commands,” Dr. William Knight IV said. “When we talk about the finer things that make us human — cognition, emotion, speech, language, etc. — we’re looking forward to learning more about that soon.”
Knight cautioned that it was too early to know if Hamlin could ever return to playing football again. Next steps would be to remove him from the breathing tube and get him home.
The Bills practiced on Thursday for the first time since Hamlin’s injury, and the entire team spoke with Hamlin’s father, Mario, who gave them the positive update.
“His message was: the team needs to get back to focusing on the goals they had set for themselves, Damar would have wanted it that way. And that includes our game against New England this week,” Bills coach Sean McDermott told reporters on Thursday. “That has helped, and then again today the news … was a big help to getting us back to focus on the game this weekend.”
Mario Hamlin’s message to the team has facilitated healing for the Bills players, Allen said.
“Being on that field, you lose sleep, you hurt for your brother,” Allen said. “(There has been) a lot of shared grief. Getting updates, positive updates eases so much of that pain and that tension you feel.”