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One More on Damar and CPR

January 19, 2023

Bruce Baumberger is a trusted friend and colleague who served as a distinguished hospital chaplain. I hope we might have enough distance from that disastrous Monday Night Bengals Game as we call it in our home (yup, son LJ4 lives in Cincinnati) to even more fully appreciate what Bruce wrote shortly thereafter —

There’s something that has been nagging at me and I guess it’s time to get it off my chest. Damar Hamlin’s heart arrest on the playing field struck everyone who witnessed it deeply and I am thankful that he received IMMEDIATE attention that resulted in his recovery and recent release from the hospital. His recovery is a testimony of how receiving IMMEDIATE medical attention by individuals who knew what they were doing resulted in a positive outcome. However, I believe his recovery had several factors in play that made his recovery so outstanding: 1. He is young. 2. He is in excellent physical condition. 3. The event seemed to be a weird hit as just the right time in the heart’s rhythm. 4. Response time was IMMEDIATE.

CPR can produce very positive outcomes, particularly in the case just cited. However, it can also produce some tragic outcomes as well. Thus, I question the efficacy of CPR. As I understand it, CPR has one goal: restore a heart beat. After that, a person’s ability to regain a “normal” level of functionality is dependent on a variety of factors (some of which may have contributed to the heart stoppage in the first place). I guess what I’m saying is that CPR does not always produce the results witnessed in Mr. Hamlin’s case and we need to be careful to point out the factors that contributed to his recovery. IMMEDIATE CPR was only one of those factors.

Perhaps I am just a grumpy, old man venting. Yet, there have been far too many times when I have witnessed “successful” CPR only to minister to a family whose loved one remained on a vent and eventually had make serious decisions (usually 2 weeks later) about whether or not to change the treatment plan. From my perspective, CPR is not the panacea many in the general public believe it to be. I am glad Damar Hamlin survived, recovered, and appears to be on the road to a fully-functional life. I celebrate the effect it had on the NFL community. CPR and IMMEDIATE attention were a couple of factors that contributed to his successful recovery. How I wish it were the same for all the individuals I saw receiving CPR. (Only witnessed such a profound recovery a couple of times in my years of chaplaincy.)

Well thanks for listening. This probably was not the most uplifting thing I’ve ever posted so I hope I didn’t bore you or bring you down. It’s just been chewing on my mind and I had to get it out. Thanks, again. Ponder on it…and God bless.

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