Rob Fahrni

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Life and Sudden Cardiac Arrest

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Hamlin lay on the field, motionless, for ten minutes as medical personnel administered CPR. Players from both teams kneeled, some with tears streaming down their faces, while Hamlin was placed on a stretcher and taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center in an ambulance. As of Tuesday, Hamlin remains hospitalized in critical condition.

This hit home. I’ve been through this. You can read about it after I add some commentary around Mr. Hamlin’s event.

Scary is a good way to describe what happened to Damar Hamlin. You don’t expect a healthy, young, fit athlete to drop dead on a football field.

The good news is two fold. First, medical staff began working on him right away. Second, doctors have to be 99% sure what caused it. Getting hit in the chest while your heart is at a very specific point in its rhythm can cause Sudden Cardiac Arrest. It seems likely this is what happened.

A wonderful bouquet of flowers.It’s going to take a while but I’d expect Mr. Hamlin is going to make a full recovery and live a normal, hopefully very long, life. I’d also imagine the psychological trauma will harder to overcome than the physical trauma. Keep that in mind.

The next question is, will he play football again? That’s tough to answer and it will ultimately be between him and his doctors to decide. If it doesn’t work out that he can play again I hope he has another skill he can fall back on. No athlete can play their sport forever, especially an NFL football player. The average NFL career is around 3.3 years, give it take, so let’s be generous and say it’s four years.

It stands to reason Mr. Hamlin would eventually resign from the NFL a young man and do something else. I often wonder how many athletes consider this on their way into professional sports?

It was reported Mr. Hamlin was due to make over $800,000US this year. That should also afford him some runway should he need to change careers.

This brings me around to a little rant but I could see folks disagreeing with what I’m about to say.

From the article I link above.

But, with a few exceptions, NFL players, unlike other major sports leagues, do not have guaranteed contracts. That means the players, not the team, carry the financial risk of serious injury.

Here’s where I’m going to be controversial.

Why should contracts be guaranteed? I understand that these young men take hard shots to their bodies in every game they play. I’d imagine it’s like us being in a car wreck and walking away battered and bruised. Heck, I’d say their experience is probably worse than that in every game.

They know what they’re doing. These men decided they wanted to do this for a living, just as I decided I wanted to be a computer programmer when I was in junior high school. They must understand the risk they take with each snap. They must. Why do you think they’re paid so well? That’s right. There are very few who are good enough to make an NFL roster, much less play.

AHHHHHH!As a teenager in high school I knew football was a collision sport. I loved the collisions, which, unfortunately, I was usually on the losing side of. I saw my teammates get hurt. A few tore ACLs. I’ve seen players get concussed. Hell, I was concussed so badly I couldn’t really see and started walking to the other teams sideline. Luckily one of my teammates grabbed my jersey and took me to our sideline. I received no medical attention. I just shook it off. I watched the QB of my JV team play through a rib injury. After the game he lay on the floor of the locker room sobbing in agony. No, we were not Pro players at the highest level of performance. Just a bunch of snot nosed kids who loved football. I knew then I could be seriously injured but I still loved playing.

Many of us choose to become Professionals in business or other occupation. I’m paid a certain amount to do my job eight hours a day, five days a week. I’m a Professional Software Engineer. I’m paid to write software. NFL players are paid to play football.

I’m aging. I’ve come to realize all that punishment I put myself through as a kid is coming home to roost. Couple that with poor genetics and I feel physically broken at age 55. I have knee and back issues to contend with daily. Recently I injured my back putting on my shoe. It happened while I was off for a week to be with family after the death of my grandmother. When I got back I struggled with work and had to take some time off, some complete days, some half days. Work became concerned and it went all the way to our HR department who called to see if I wanted to take extended time off. It’s nice I have that option but at 60% of my income I cannot afford to take time off. Can you? So I’m “playing” injured, I know it’s not like the NFL but bare with me. Thankfully it’s not my brain and some time off between Christmas and New Year healed me up enough to get back to work without issue.

I do not have guaranteed income as a Professional Software Developer. Sure I have the option to go on disability for 12 weeks at 60% pay, but eventually that ends. What if I am injured so badly I need medical care my entire life? Like many other Americans I’m screwed and so is my family.

I disagree NFL players should get guaranteed contracts. I do believe the NFL Players Union could probably do a better job negotiating some guaranteed money and guaranteed healthcare, for life. Healthcare is going to, most likely, be the largest lifetime expense for many players.

I understand the punditry, players, and all us normals are talking about Mr. Hamlins injury now. It’s only natural and, after all, the young man almost died for a sport. But, let’s not forget things like this happen in the real world every day. It’s just not talked about every day on talk shows, so we are naive to it, and go about our daily lives as if everything is peachy.

My Sudden Cardiac Arrest

When I was in my Senior year of high school – at age 17 – I had Sudden Cardiac Arrest while in the on deck circle of a baseball field. We were taking batting practice.

As it’s told to me I just collapsed. I wasn’t hit in the chest with a baseball, which can cause a Sudden Cardiac Arrest, my heart just decided it wanted to stop. You don’t expect to see a young, healthy, fit 17 year old drop dead on a baseball diamond.

I was resuscitated by my best friend, Pedro. Pete, as we called him, was a hemophiliac and wasn’t allowed to participate in sports so our high school sent him to Sports Medicine training and he became a student trainer for various sports. Luckily he was on the baseball field that day. Pete was joined by Mr. Conley, a teacher, and they performed CPR on me until the ambulance arrived.

I apparently arrested again so the EMT’s worked on me for a bit then loaded me into the ambulance. Being in a small town word gets around really quickly. My family doctor heard what was going on and asked the ambulance to pick him up. He continued working on me as we drove to neighboring Visalia. I was resuscitated before arriving at Kaweah Delta Hospital.

When we arrived at the ER I arrested again and was subsequently resuscitated once more. This time my heart continued to beat on its own.

Once stabilized I was put into a medically enduced coma. When I was allowed to wake up I had no idea what had happened and I was loopy for quite a while.

Doctors tried to recreate my arrest by performing a heart catheterization, inserting some type of wire, and shocking my heart. They were trying to create an electrical malfunction. They were unable to recreate it.

No true cause was ever detected but I do have mitral valve prolapse and the best theory doctors had was my mitral valve stuck open and caused my heart to stop. Mitral valve issues can cause Sudden Cardiac Arrest.

Eventually I was released from the hospital, put on beta blockers, and went back to my life. No driving for the next six months and no sports until the doctor released me.

The most difficult part of this entire episode was dealing with the thought it could happen again, at any time. I went through bouts of depression and had to be treated for it. Eventually things returned to normal. I worked in the packing house over the summer, played hoops with my friends, and went to pool parties. Like a normal 17 year old.

A couple years later I married the love of my life, had two amazing kids, and now we have two wonderful grand kids. Overall I’ve had a wonderful life.

All that to say your life can still be quite full after a major, life threatening, event. Even if you don’t have a true cause.

Tiny Apple Core