Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

A Super Side Story

(apologies for the delay in this story, but life happens.)

As many who have no vested interest in the Super Bowl (meaning my team was not playing), I am prone to want to pay attention to the extra stories that occur over the two weeks, and the game itself. This is a tradition that began for me back in 2006, when the Seattle Seahawks (my team) went to their first Super Bowl, and I completely missed the game, as I was in the process of adopting my youngest daughter. Every year, as Super Bowl rolls around, regardless who is playing, including the two additional appearances by the Seahawks, the first thing that always comes to mind, is that trip all the way around the world.

This year’s game, had many special stories behind the game. There was the first match up of biological brothers playing on opposite teams. This story so entertaining, even their mother, any time she was seen, was wearing “split” clothing, representing both the Philadelphia Eagles for her son Jason, and the Kansas City Chiefs for her son Travis.

There was the historical milestone of having two black quarterbacks starting the Super Bowl.

And then, there was the fact that the head coach of the Chiefs, at one time, had been the coach of the Eagles, and while haven gotten the birds to the Super Bowl, the did not win. “Big Red” as Andy Reid was known by, soon found himself out of favor with the fans, and the team, landing in Kansas City, where he won his first Super Bowl as a coach last year.

But the most special moment for me, occurred at two separate moments, both before the game had begun. The first happened in the hour before the game, an interview was held by former New York Giant Michael Strahan, with Buffalo Bills Damar Hamlin, who gained unintended fame having collapsed on the field, during a game between the Bills and the Bengals near the end of the season.

After some questions to Hamlin about how the day began, and what was at stake, Strahan then asked a most difficult question. I am paraphrasing it, as this happened to be an emotional moment for me watching this interview, explanation will be coming shortly, “what went through your mind, as you got up after making the tackle, only to collapse right after.” Hamlin responded that he was not able to answer that question yet, as tears started rolling down his face.

Of course, the question was likely to provoke a response about the sudden blackout, fear, helplessness, and as his heart beat stopped on the field, would he have had any memory of that moment? The interview ended soon after that.

Whether for good or for bad, when the body decides to allow or disallow memory of certain trauma, whether remembered or not, often stirs an emotional upheaval, none felt like ever before. While I will not speak for Hamlin, myself, a cardiac patient as Hamlin, I often still struggle with my emotions every since my first major open heart surgery almost fifteen years ago. And I cannot explain it. I do not personally remember anything after the oxygen mask had been placed over my mouth. Reading the surgical report, I know my heart had been stopped, drained of its blood so that the surgery could be done. And then my heart was filled back up with blood, and restarted. I offer my apologies to my surgeon as it was really way more complicated than I made it sound. But my point is this, I remember nothing about what happened, once I was put under anesthesia until I came to after the surgery. And yet, whenever I witness or hear of someone else go through an experience with the heart, or cancer, I lose control of my emotions.

As I write this post, I am aware of a fellow long term Hodgkin’s survivor like me, going on over a month now since his heart surgery. He is also facing new emotions as he struggles with his recovery, as well as the trauma of what his body had been put through.

When Hamlin is ready, he may finally discuss what he has been feeling, struggling with. Maybe his won’t. But one thing that I truly admire about Hamlin, like many other survivors, they take the experience of that traumatic event, and try to make something good come of it.

Hamlin is alive for only one reason, CPR being performed on him, almost right away. Time is the most critical when the heart stops beating, and medical personnel were able to begin CPR right away, buying the time necessary for better methods to be employed, eventually saving this young man’s life. It is truly an inspirational story, fan of football or not.

And so, the second moment of yesterday’s telecast came, during introductions of the game, many medical personnel who tended to Hamlin, and training staff from both teams were all introduced on the field. And yes, it was predictable, but wow, what a powerful moment, Hamlin was introduced, and embraced all who were there. Yes, the tears were not only falling, but out of control for me. Hamlin was wearing sunglasses, but anyone watching knew what was happening in that moment.

I reunited with my hospital caregivers a couple months after my emergency bypass had been completed. I wanted to let them all know, their care was responsible for saving my life, and I was not only going to live, but make the most of my life, and I would forever be grateful for the care that they gave me.

In the meantime for Hamlin, he is using his “event” to raise awareness and advocate for everyone to learn a newer version of CPR, his life definitely being saved from someone immediately able to perform CPR on him after he collapsed. As anyone knows, timeliness is critical in reviving someone whose heart has stopped.

The newer procedure for CPR came about for several reasons, from reluctance due to Covid-19 risk and sadly homophobia in some cases, to discovering that chest compressions were more critical to keep blood flowing until emergency personnel arrives. The American Heart Association now recommends up to 120 chest compressions per minute, and if possible, using a chain of rescuers. Even if you have never performed CPR on someone with the older method, and just been certified using a “dummy,” performing chest compressions for a long period of time, combined with the emotional adrenaline, can be exhausting.

But learning this new technique, is not only easier, it just might make a difference when you least expect it. Like in front of 65,000 fans during a football game.

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One thought on “A Super Side Story

  1. Lynn Boddy on said:

    I enjoyed this story very much, Paul.

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