PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — As millions watched Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin collapse on during Monday night’s NFL game, many felt just like Scott and Trisha Kern.

“It’s hard to watch … it’s really like so much PTSD,” Trisha said. Hamlin remains hospitalized in critical condition as of Tuesday.

Seeing Hamlin lifeless on the field triggered terrifying feelings from five years ago when Scott suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. The cause of his event was clogged arteries. Hamlin likely went down for another reason, according to cardiologist Dena Krishnan with the American Heart Association.

“This is a little bit of speculation, but what this looks like is a very classic scenario for something we call commotio cordis, it’s a very, very exceedingly rare cause of cardiac arrest,” Dr. Krishnan said.

Commotio cordis most often happens to young athletes who take a hockey puck, soccer ball or helmet hard to the chest.

“The wrong or hard enough trauma right against the heart right at a particular moment when the heart kind of needed to get a new beat and that’s enough to stop the heart,” Krishnan said.

Swift CPR and an AED used on the football field restarted Hamlin’s heart. The same thing saved Kern in his office.

“Had they not done so, I would not be here talking to you,” he said during an interview with WAVY.

For Hamlin, Krishanan told us, the next few days are crucial waiting to see if he can breath on his own and if his brain can recover from the trauma. His age and physical fitness she says are on his side, while the fact that he and Kern are even alive today underscore the importance immediate CPR.

“I think a lot of people are always afraid to get involved but its really important that we educate people that if you see something that you try to help,” Scott Kern said.

He and his wife are advocates for public places to have AEDs, which tell users exactly what to do.
Also, if you’re interested in learning “hands only” CPR you can contact the American Heart Association by reaching out to: HamptonRoads@heart.org and/or attending their upcoming Go Red for Women Luncheon.