Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who is still recovering from cardiac arrest, thanked fans in his first public statement since collapsing on Saturday and asked them to keep the prayers coming.
On Saturday, Hamlin posted messages on Instagram and Twitter thanking well-wishers who, he said, had helped his recovery.
“When you put genuine love out into the world, it comes back to you threefold,” Hamlin wrote on Instagram. “The Love has been overwhelming, but I’m thankful for every single person that prayed for me and reached out. Keep praying for me on this long journey!”
In the messages, Hamlin assured fans that the incident during Monday night’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals would only strengthen his resolve.
The Bills and the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where Hamlin is being treated, issued a joint statement Saturday saying the 24-year-old was still in critical condition.
“Damar is making continued progress in his recovery, but he remains in critical condition,” according to the statement. “He is still breathing on his own and has excellent neurological function.”
On Sunday, the Buffalo Bills will face the New England Patriots. According to the NFL, Buffalo players plan to wear jersey patches with Hamlin’s number, 3, to show their support for his recovery.
The Bills planned to wear t-shirts with the phrase “Love for Damar 3” during pregame warmups, according to the league. The field at Highmark Stadium will have a temporary “3” for each 30-yard line number, according to the announcement.
The NFL has expressed gratitude to the first responders who rushed to help Hamlin after he collapsed on Monday, and has encouraged teams to read a statement thanking those involved in his care before this weekend’s games.
Hamlin appears to have improved noticeably every day since Monday’s incident. On Friday, his breathing tube was removed, and he FaceTimed into a team meeting, telling teammates, “Love you boys,” according to the Bills.
Later that day, he tweeted, “The love is felt, & extremely real.”
The love is felt, & extremely real. No matter race or religion everybody coming together in prayer! 🙏❤️
— 𝐃𝐚𝐦𝐚𝐫 𝐇𝐚𝐦𝐥𝐢𝐧 (@HamlinIsland) January 8, 2023
Millions of people witnessed his collapse, which occurred just after the shoulder of a Bengals receiver he was tackling appeared to strike Hamlin’s chest. It was unclear whether that contact had anything to do with his cardiac arrest.
Doctors at the University of Cincinnati were investigating the possibility that Hamlin suffered from “commotio cordis,” a condition in which a strike to the chest within a 20-millisecond window in the heartbeat cycle can disrupt vital signs quickly.
“It can cause an abnormal heart rhythm and send him into cardiac arrest,” said MSNBC contributor and emergency physician Dr. Uché Blackstock.
The most serious concern in such an event, she says, is the effect on brain function because oxygen can be cut off or limited. In Hamlin’s case, she claims that the quick response from the team and first responders, combined with his top-tier care at the university, has resulted in an ideal recovery path thus far.
“He’s fortunate,” Blackstock said. “This is the preferred outcome. This is not a common occurrence.”
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said on Saturday that Hamlin’s steady recovery gives him hope.
“Seeing his recovery from what appeared to be tragedy has undoubtedly been triumphant at this point,” he said.