Almost four weeks after suffering a cardiac arrest during the Buffalo Bills' Week 17 game, safety Damar Hamlin spoke publicly for the first time since the incident in a video made in collaboration with the Bills.
"I think it was important for me to wait and speak publicly at the right time, as it was a lot to process within my own self, mentally, physically, even spiritually, it's just been a lot to process," Hamlin said to open the video. "But I can't tell you how appreciative I am of all of the love, all the support, and everything that's just been coming in my way. What happened to me on Monday Night Football I feel is a direct example of God using me as a vessel to share my passion and my love directly from my heart with the entire world, and I'm able to give it back to kids and communities all across the world who needed it most. And that's always been my dream, that's always been what I stood for and what I continue to stand for."
Hamlin was discharged from Buffalo General Medical Center on Jan. 11 after nine days in two hospitals, and was able to attend the Bills' Divisional Round game versus the Bengals at Highmark Stadium last Sunday, Jan. 22. Hamlin visited his teammates in the locker room prior to the matchup and was shown on the stadium's jumbotron during the second quarter, eliciting cheers from the attending fans.
Hamlin started by thanking the Bills' medical, training and athletic staff, along with the medical personnel involved with his care first at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center and then Buffalo General. He went on to express gratitude for his family, who he said "never left my side the entire time," and for the widespread support from the Bills organization, Bills Mafia, the Bengals and their fanbase, and the entire NFL.
"Ever since I became a Buffalo Bill it's been nothing but genuine love and support not even only for me, but for everyone's situation no matter what is was. It was Bills Mafia jumped behind it and gave 110 percent support and love, no matter the situation. And with this happening to me, I didn't feel anything short of the love, and it really helped me stay encouraged to get through the toughest moments and the toughest times," Hamlin said. "To the entire Bills organization and my brothers who made it a priority to lift me up spiritually, mentally and in every way possible, reaching out every day seeing how I was doing, calling, texting, just checking up on me no matter the situation. I'm proud to be a part of this team. I'm proud to be able to call you guys my brothers.
"To the city of Cincinnati, the Bengals, and the entire NFL, just for putting team allegiance aside to root for one kid's life, and the humanity of a player that's wearing Buffalo blue. You put humanity above team loyalty, you showed the world unity over division. I'm not surprised by it but I'm deeply grateful, and I will be forever thankful and indebted to that."
One way in which many people chose to show their support for Hamlin's recovery was through donations to his Chasing M's Foundation Community Toy Drive, which since the incident has raised over $9 million in support of his work in the community.
"My mind is literally blown away from all this support, I don't even have the words to express the gratitude for the amount of support that was given into that," Hamlin said. "That was something that was started even way before I made it to the NFL, something that was started small just to be able to affect my small community back at home in McKees Rocks. I just wanted to be able to play my role and do my part in my community as I ventured off to chase my dreams in the NFL, and you guys have just took that and blown it away, and I'm so excited for the things I have planned in the future for these kids all across the country now."
With one final thanks to all, Hamlin ended the video by holding up his hands to form a heart, the symbol which has become synonymous with his recovery and the public rallying around to support him.