NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — From the moment Buffalo Bills Safety Damar Hamlin collapsed, the faces on the coaches and tone of the announcers said it all.
"It’s not what any of us want to see," said ESPN announcer Troy Aikman.
Doctors would later discover the 24-year-old rookie went into sudden cardiac arrest.
"Time is ticking. When they collapse, we’ve got to go," said Angel Carter, program director of Project Adam.
Project Adam fights for training and availability of AEDs across Middle Tennessee. Carter says she trains people for these exact moments.
"Their heart’s not beating so you really only have about three to five minutes to provide a really good response, or their brain cells are beginning to die," said Carter.
She said it's important to start CPR as soon as possible and ask someone else to call for help.
"You’ve got to have scissors and cut the clothing out of the way so that takes time. I teach people to continue doing CPR while we’re cutting the clothing, while we’re opening the AED," she said.
From there, the AED, or Automatic External Defibrillator, will verbally walk you through what to do next.
"You make sure everybody’s back and you give the shock — and then you restart your CPR," said Carter.
She always gives the assurance, the AED can only help and can't hurt a patient.
"You cannot hurt someone by using an AED because if they don’t need a shock, it will say no shock advised," she said.
Cardiologist Dr. Ricardo Lugo says he has no doubt, fast acting crews kept Hamlin alive on the field.
"You can make a difference for somebody, you can save someone’s life," said Lugo, who is cardiac electrophysiologist at Ascension Saint Thomas. "Just having full preparedness for these kinds of things can really make all the difference."
Instead of this incident scaring parents, Dr. Lugo thinks it should be a teaching moment.
"I don’t think this is something that should be causing everyone to wonder, you know, gosh should my children be playing sports? But I do think it’s a great opportunity for all of our sports programs to examine their medical practices and be prepared for something like this," he said.
Dr. Lugo said it's too early to say what caused Hamlin's cardiac arrest, but emphasized — unlike a heart attack that involves a blockage — cardiac arrest involves electric disturbances of the heart.
Because cardiac arrest can happen to those otherwise healthy, Angel Carter says the best way to save lives is through education.
"The only way we’re going to move the needle on that survival rate is for people to know CPR, to increase the accessibility of AEDs in our communities and where youth play, and teach people how to use them and then people be willing to use those skills," said Carter.
For more on Project Adam at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, click here.