Buffalo Bills player's collapse brings back painful memories for MN family

When Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed during Monday Night Football, coaches, players and millions of fans watched in stunned disbelief.

"This is scary to watch. It's scary to see anyone pass out and lose consciousness," said Dr William Katsiyannis, president of the Allina Health Minneapolis Heart Institute.

While its not clear what caused Hamlin's to suffer a cardiac arrest, Dr. Katsiyannis says it looked like the hit to the chest Hamlin took just before he fell could have resulted in a rare condition called commotio cordis, where the heart goes into an abnormal rhythm after being hit at a critical time when the organ is relaxed and getting ready for it's next beat.

"It's just the perfect storm of events. The perfect impact in this perfect spot," said Dr. Katsiyannis.

Dr. Katsiyannis says treatment for commotio cordis involves performing CPR as quickly as possible and using a defibrillator to try to get the person's heartbeat back like medical personnel did in Hamlin's case. 

If treated within the first three minutes before brain damage begins, Dr. Katsiyannis says a person who suffers from commotio cordis can make a full recovery.

"When this happens in young folks, the survival rate is very good if we can resuscitate him quickly, like hopefully what they did last night," said Dr.Katsiyannis.

After 14-year-old Patrick Schoonover collapsed on the ice and died from sudden cardiac arrest caused by two undetected heart defects back in 2014, his family's foundation, Play For Patrick, has held more than two dozen heart screenings for young people to make sure they don't have any heart issues.

"It was kind of an eerie reminder of when our son went down.  Our goal is to make sure families don't feel the same sense of loss that we do. We don't want kids to die, especially doing the things they love," said Michael Schoonover, Patrick's dad.

The Schoonovers don't know if a heart screening would have helped Hamlin, but they believe teaching kids and adults CPR and to know where portable defibrillators are in public places, could help save lives in the future.

"Let's do something about it. Let's educate ourselves and let's practice CPR. Let's know how to use an AED and know where they are wherever you go," said Schoonover.