Growing up, John Bush Jr. participated in boxing, basketball, and football. However, his role on Jan. 2 was different. He was part of a relay team responsible for saving the life of Damar Hamlin at Paycor Stadium. Bush has been a respiratory therapist on the stadium’s emergency action team since its inception in 2018. This team is a result of the emergency action plan (EAP) that every NFL stadium is required to have in case of severe trauma. Despite being on the sidelines for every game, Bush had never been on the playing field during a game until that day.
During a “Monday Night Football” match between the Bills and Bengals, Hamlin, a second-year safety with the Bills, suffered cardiac arrest. Bush and the UC team quickly sprang into action to save his life, with millions of viewers watching from home and over 65,000 fans in the stands. Bush’s main goal was to get Hamlin home safely to his mom.
First, Bush had to perform a crucial task. He used a blue Ambu bag, a self-inflating resuscitator, to help Hamlin breathe. The Bills’ athletic trainers began the life-saving relay, followed by the UC team, including Bush and Dr. B. Woods Curry. Curry, an emergency medicine physician and consultant for the Bengals’ EAP, has been part of the team since 2018. The team practices during the preseason and regular season to prepare for emergencies on the field.
It took nearly 30 minutes from the moment Hamlin collapsed to when he was loaded into an ambulance. During this time, Kellington performed CPR, Bush used the Ambu bag, and Curry intubated Hamlin. Curry stayed behind in case the game resumed, while Bush rode along with Hamlin to the hospital. At the UC Medical Center, a trauma team prepared for Hamlin’s arrival.
Schultz, an emergency room nurse, received a text from her husband notifying her of the incoming patient. Coworkers at the game also sent messages when the ambulance left. In the hospital, physicians, residents, nurses, and other medical personnel readied themselves to treat Hamlin. Bush felt comforted when he saw the team waiting for them. Outside the hospital, a crowd of well-wishers gathered, praying for Hamlin’s recovery.
After approximately 16 hours, Hamlin woke up, though he was still intubated. He responded to simple commands, which brought relief to the medical team. Bush couldn’t sleep until he received the news. He finally got to see Hamlin four days later and shared their emotional bond over saving his life.
Hamlin and the Bills are returning to Paycor Stadium for a game, and Bush will join them, along with his family and others, to celebrate at a steakhouse in downtown Cincinnati the night before the game.