Damar Hamlin Becomes Abbott HeartMates Program’s First Ambassador Following His 2023 Collapse: ‘You Never Think It’s Going To Happen To You’

Damar Hamlin Becomes Abbott HeartMates Program’s First Ambassador Following His 2023 Collapse: ‘You Never Think It’s Going To Happen To You’ | Photo: Abbott
Damar Hamlin Becomes Abbott HeartMates Program’s First Ambassador Following His 2023 Collapse: ‘You Never Think It’s Going To Happen To You’ | Photo: Abbott

On Jan. 2, 2023, the world held its breath when Buffalo Bill safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field after experiencing a cardiac emergency during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Hamlin was the picture of resiliency through his recovery and returned to the league during the preseason in August 2023. Although Hamlin’s health scare wasn’t caused by underlying issues, he now understands the plight of those on their heart health journey.

The 26-year-old athlete is using the life-changing event as a vehicle for advocacy by becoming the first ambassador for the Abbott HeartMates program. Abbott is the world’s leading innovator in products, including medical devices and nutritional supplements that help people live their healthiest lives.

Per Abbott’s press release, the HeartMates program “aims to create a community of support for people and caregivers impacted by heart conditions.”

In addition, “The program will enable participants to share stories and receive emotional support as well as connect with others going through similar heart health journeys.”

The HeartMates program will provide individuals access to health, physical and mental support vital to their recovery. To celebrate the launch of the HeartMates program, Hamlin joined Abbott in hosting its HeartMates Draft Day, where they recognized 11 people and their caregivers from across the country who have come back from serious cardiovascular conditions. Draftees were gifted a personalized jersey, signifying they were the true MVPs.

Blavity spoke with Hamlin about his partnership with Abbott and their shared vision of providing an empowering support system to those looking to achieve their own comeback stories.

Photo: Abbott
Photo: Abbott

During your recovery process, what do you think was the most important thing you learned regarding heart health?

Damar Hamlin: It was a process where I had to learn about something I hadn’t thought about much before, and I just had to learn to listen to my body. A lot of people had thoughts on what I should be doing or what I shouldn’t be doing, but it was important for me to just listen to what my body and what my doctors were telling me.

Typically, athletes are the picture of health and do all the right things to avoid issues. How did your incident change your perspective? 

DH: These situations can happen to anyone, and we all need to be aware of that. You never think it’s going to happen to you, but you never know. It’s important to do everything you can to stay healthy and active and make sure you are putting yourself in a position that minimizes the chance for something to happen.

Blavity: Healing from anything can be mentally taxing. Do you have any advice for someone going through recovery, especially something of this magnitude? 

DH: Going through what I went through can be overwhelming and at times you feel alone. That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with people who will be there for you and who will support you. You don’t always have people who understand what you are going through and that’s why we’re creating the Abbott HeartMates team, which gives people a community and allows people to connect with people who know what they’ve been through. Having a support system is critical and I’m thankful to those that were there for me during my time of need. And now I’m happy to be working with Abbott and paying it forward to other people who are going through similar situations.

When did you decide to use your incident to catalyze change and awareness? 

DH: I don’t think it was ever a second thought. I’ve always been the type of person who felt like I was called to serve other people and I approached this the same way from day one, it just felt like something that I had to do, and no decision needed to be made. The people around me in my circle were a big part of seeing that it was possible as well.

How do you approach your heart and overall health now? Has anything changed?

DH: Most definitely. I would say, like most things, you don’t think about it in the same way until it happens to you, so sure, you can empathize with people and try to understand what they are going through, but you’ll never see it the same way until you go through it yourself. With my situation, I’ve always just looked at it as a blessing to get closer to my goals of impacting millions of people, and I feel like we’re on our way there.

What does this partnership with Abbott mean for you, and how do you hope it impacts the public regarding heart health? 

DH: I’m super proud to be partnering with Abbott to create the HeartMates community. I know firsthand what it’s like to go through these challenging situations, and I know what it takes to make a comeback. We’re partnering together so that anyone who goes through this situation has the full support of a community that will help them pave their own comebacks. Through this partnership with Abbott, I’ve joined them in visiting hospitals around the country and meeting with people who are going through heart health issues. It’s important to me to use my platform and relate to them. I am passionate about using my platform and hoping to brighten someone’s day by meeting with them and connecting with them.