Patient Stories

Two Men, Two Traumas, One Lifesaving Connection

Feb. 7, 2024

Unlikely Bonds Formed in the Crucial Ordeal of Cardiac Arrest.

In the span of nearly 10 months, an extraordinary friendship emerged from the crucible of unforeseen trauma marking a poignant cardiac arrest patient story. Dr. Yousef Raslan, aged 28 at the time, and Damar Hamlin, then 24, found their lives irrevocably linked after both men collapsed into cardiac arrest, one on the basketball court and the other on the football field, less than a year apart.

Dr. Raslan, engaged in a routine game of pick-up basketball, and Hamlin, under the spotlight of Monday Night Football at Paycor Stadium, owe their survival to the swift and heroic actions of those around them. As they reflect on their shared experience, both men express profound gratitude for the individuals who played a crucial role in saving their lives.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest: Two Lives Changed Forever

Surviving such a harrowing ordeal is a rarity, with only 10% of those who undergo cardiac arrest living to share their stories. Dr. Raslan, a cardiac arrest survivor, was now feeling a mix of luck, blessing, and an unexpected sense of guilt, is acutely aware of the impact his survival had on those who came to his aid.

In light of these staggering statistics, organizations like the American Heart Association are tirelessly working to increase awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and heart health. Their efforts include educating the public on recognizing the early symptoms of heart problems and the importance of immediate action, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs). The survival rate can significantly improve with more widespread knowledge and quick response.

“I had a lot of guilt to go back just because, as an older guy, traumatizing a bunch of undergrad kids kind of got to me,” Raslan admitted, highlighting the emotional aftermath of the incident.

The Emotional Journey of a Cardiac Arrest Survivor

The University of Cincinnati Medical Center became Raslan's sanctuary for 10 days, where he spent time in the intensive care unit before transitioning to Cincinnati Children's for further care and the installation of a defibrillator due to congenital heart issues.

Dr. Raslan's case was unique, as he had been living with an undiagnosed heart condition that led to his cardiac arrest. This revelation brought to light the critical role of regular health check-ups and being aware of risk factors associated with heart disease. It’s not just about the heart muscle's strength but also understanding how rhythm disorders like ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia can be silent killers.

Physically healed but emotionally affected, Raslan faced the chilling realization that less than a year later, another person would endure a similar fate, this time on a national stage during a major sporting event - highlighting the unpredictable nature of cardiac arrest.

Hamlin’s recovery journey was a testament to the advancements in critical care, particularly in managing heart failure and other severe heart problems. UC Health, a leader in cardiac rehab and recovery, often cites such cases to highlight the importance of comprehensive post-arrest care. They emphasize the need for continuous monitoring of brain activity and blood flow to prevent secondary brain injury.

Beyond Survival: Building Awareness and Connection

“I watched it happen, and the tone of the game and what was happening—I was sitting with my roommate, who was also a physician, and I said, I think that they're doing CPR,” Raslan recalled, reliving the haunting familiarity of the situation.

In that moment, Raslan understood precisely the emotional and physical journey that awaited Hamlin and his family. When Hamlin's recovery became known, Raslan reached out, extending not just medical expertise but a genuine camaraderie born from shared trauma.

“We share a bond. It's not a bond that either of us are excited to have, but it's a trauma bond that we definitely commiserate over, and we definitely relate from that perspective,” Raslan shared, underlining the profound connection forged through adversity.

Their experiences also shed light on the mental health aspects of surviving sudden cardiac death. Both Raslan and Hamlin experienced post-traumatic stress, a common yet often overlooked consequence of such traumatic events. It underscores the importance of holistic healthcare that addresses both the physical and emotional well-being of survivors.

Advocating for Cardiac Health: A Shared Mission

Despite the physical distance, Raslan and Hamlin maintain regular contact, using their shared experiences to advocate for education on responding to cardiac arrest. Their message is clear: awareness and preparedness can make the difference between life and death, a truth they know firsthand.