Damar Hamlin Sends Strong Message to Bills Owner’s Daughter

Damar Hamlin, Jessica Pegula

Getty Bills safety Damar Hamlin (L) reacts to the heartbreaking story about Kim Pegula's health shared by her daughter, Jessica Pegula (R).

Jessica Pegula, daughter of Buffalo Bills co-owners Terry and Kim Pegula, broke her silence on her mother’s mysterious medical emergency in a moving essay published in The Player’s Tribune on Tuesday, February 7. The professional tennis player revealed that in June 2022, Kim Pegula suffered cardiac arrest.

While Kim Pegula, 53, continues to work hard in her recovery, she is “dealing with significant expressive aphasia,” which is the inability to express speech due to brain damage, “and significant memory issues,” Pegula revealed. While it’s “unknown” how much her mother will improve, it seems unlikely the CEO of Pegula Sports & Entertainment will be able to return to her job at full capacity.

During the eight-month period Pegula had kept her mother’s health status under wraps, she mentioned how on January 2, “We came to some bizarre, messed-up, full circle moment” when “Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest on the field during the Monday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals… I usually don’t get too much anxiety, but the thought of what Damar and his family were about to go through hurt my heart. I knew how important time was. I just kept thinking time, time, time, time. I hope they got him back and quick enough.”

Hamlin reacted to Pegula’s heartbreaking story the next day. The 24-year-old safety retweeted her story and wrote, “Heartfelt.. Thank You Jessie for sharing & allowing yourself to be vulnerable in front of the entire world. 🌎💕🫶🏾 We Are With You!”

Hamlin knew his medical emergency caused a lot of stress for his family and even texted an apology to his teammates for putting the Bills through so much turmoil, so in addition to personally understanding the trauma Kim Pegula went through, his empathy for her daughter is genuine.

Being public figures, both Hamlin and Kim Pegula’s traumatic health scares came with unusual baggage. The 28-year-old tennis star mentioned that while she was competing at Wimbledon, she had to shut down egregious rumors claiming her mother had died. After Hamlin’s attended the Bills-Bengals AFC Divisional Playoff game, an insane conspiracy theory swirled online that he was deceased and viewers were seeing a clone of the safety.

Pegula Said Her Sister’s Ability to Perform CPR Saved Her Mother’s Life

One of the most poignant parts of Pegula’s essay is when she described how sister Kelly, who needed to get her CPR certification for a new job, saved their mother’s life. “My mom was asleep when my dad woke up to her going into cardiac arrest and she was unresponsive for quite a while. My sister gave her CPR until the ambulance arrived. She saved her life. Even though she doesn’t like to take credit for this terrible situation, she absolutely saved her life, followed by the critical job performed by the paramedics who arrived and were able to restore a heartbeat.”

The heroic efforts of the Bills’ training staff, in particular, Denny Kellington, who resuscitated the Pittsburgh alum at Paycor Stadium, was absolutely crucial in Hamlin’s recovery. University of Cincinnati Medical doctors said the immediate response from the Bills’ medical personnel was what allowed them to give “positive updates” after he was admitted.

Hamlin was so inspired by all the medical professionals who helped save his life, he teamed up with the American Heart Association for his #3forHeart CPR Challenge, a three-step initiative to encourage people to learn CPR, donate to research, and help educate others about the life-saving procedure.

Hamlin said in an Instagram video shared on February 1, “Once again, I want to thank everybody for the love and support over these past few weeks. As you know, CPR saved my life earlier this year on the field. And CPR could easily save your life or someone you love.”

On February 8, the NFLPA named Hamlin as the winner of the 2023 Alan Page Community Award. “You’ve inspired so many @HamlinIsland—this ones for you. 🫶,” the NFLPA tweeted. Hamlin, along with his entire family, were able to travel to Phoenix, Arizona to accept the award.

Pegula & Hamlin Face Uphill Battles in Their Recovery Process

Terry Pegula Kim Pegula

GettyBuffalo Bills co-owners Terry and Kim Pegula speak to the crowd before a game.

The co-owner of the Buffalo Sabres “can read, write, and understand pretty well, but she has trouble finding the words to respond,” Pegula wrote. And while “doctors continue to be blown away by her recovery, considering where she started,” Pegula acknowledges that the trailblazing force her mother was to their family, community, and at work “is most likely gone… she won’t be able to be that person anymore.”

While there’s much to celebrate in regard to Hamlin’s recovery, it’s not yet clear if he’ll be to play football again.

“I think it’s too premature to speculate with that,” UC Medical Center’s Dr. Pritts said last month. “He’s making great progress. His brain and neurological function is really normal. Right now it’s just a young man recovering from a very serious illness. We think that he will recover well from this and he has a great positive attitude. He originally asked who had won (the Bills-Bengals team), and his answer now to that is that we all won out of this.

“The goal for every patient who’s suffered a serious illness or injury is to help them to return as close to baseline as possible. So we anticipate that he would likely have ongoing needs, whether it is therapy or working with different specialists to get him as close to where he really can be.”

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