Charleston hospitals discuss heart health and life-saving skills

The sports community is reeling after a Buffalo Bills Football player collapsed and went to the hospital during Monday night’s game.
Published: Jan. 3, 2023 at 4:07 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 3, 2023 at 10:07 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The sports community is reeling after a Buffalo Bills Football player collapsed and went to the hospital during Monday night’s game.

Damar Hamlin, the 24-year-old safety, received emergency aid on the field for nearly 20 minutes after going into cardiac arrest. He remains in critical condition.

In the wake of the unexpected medical emergency, Charleston area hospitals are sharing essential and potentially lifesaving information about using automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

According to the American Heart Association, the country’s healthcare system sees 350,000 cardiac arrests every year. The organization states that CPR can double or sometimes triple the chance of survival when someone is suffering a heart attack.

Medical professionals say these are important skills to have and use. Jeffrey Winterfield, M.D., is the electrophysiology Chief of Cardiology at MUSC. He says he was watching the game when Hamlin went down and the emergency staff on site jumped into action.

“I still get education on updates to CPR, which have changed substantially in the 20 years since I’ve been out of medical school. And we’ve really tried to make it easier we believe that compressions with sufficient frequency and that are deep enough and strong enough will maintain circulation. It’s rather, it’s really rather remarkable, but it’s still time is of the essence,” Winterfield says.

Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are small, portable electronic devices used to shock the heart back into its normal rhythm on someone in cardiac arrest.  AEDs are often located in workplaces, schools and public places lots of people frequent like stadiums, restaurants or shopping centers.

Starting in 2006, Roper St. Francis Emergency services began participating in a community health initiative called ‘HeartSave’ that put more than 750 AEDs in public places throughout Charleston. These places include schools, churches, restaurants and medical facilities. The program offers AED devices and CPR training following American Heart Association guidelines.

Roberta Patrick is the Program Director of the HeartSafe Program and an EMS Clinical Manager at Roper St. Francis. She installs the machines at schools, churches and non-profits and provides training to the people on site.

“Anybody qualifies for an AED. The more we can get this into the community, the larger the spectrum, the more lives we save, it’s a very important tool.  So get out there and get involved, don’t be afraid to step up to the plate and help somebody if you can,” Patrick says.

Medical professionals say providing CPR and AED training at work, school or seeking it out on your own can make a difference in the 70% of cardiac emergencies that happen outside of hospitals.

You can find out more about the Roper Hospital program by clicking here.

You can find training classes from the American Heart Association by clicking here.

The American Heart Association released a statement on their website following Monday night’s incident and the discussion surrounding cardiac arrest. The full statement can be read here.