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Hamlin and Mangine families: Touched by tragedy, united to save lives

Stephanie Kuzydym

CINCINNATI − The moment was seven months of healing.

The moment was seven months of raising awareness of sudden cardiac arrest.

When NFL player Damar Hamlin wrapped his arms around Matt Mangine Sr., the moment was seven months of two totally separate stories joining one path: the man who was saved and the father of the boy who wasn’t, coming together to fight for safer sidelines in the future.

In January, Hamlin’s life was saved by an automated external defibrillator following his sudden cardiac arrest during a Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals game.

Watching the game just a few miles south of the stadium was the Mangine family, who in honor of their son Matthew, spent the last two years gathering donations to place AEDs on high school sidelines.

On Saturday in a grand hall on the University of Cincinnati’s campus, Hamlin entered the room, slowing only to shake the hand of a man in a white polo, as the crowd of both fans and medical personnel began to cheer.

Mangine, wearing that white polo, walked in with his wife Kim and his son Joseph, unnoticed. The family was there to speak for their son, Matthew Mangine Jr., who collapsed in June 2020 during high school soccer conditioning. Mangine didn’t receive a shock from an AED for at least 12 minutes, when EMS arrived. He was 16.

Hamlin was back in the Queen City for the first time since his Jan. 2 collapse on one of professional football’s largest stages: Monday Night Football.

“I am truly blessed and honored to be standing up here,” Hamlin said as the crowd whistled and cheered. “I’m super grateful for all those learning CPR and how to use AEDs. That’s a step in the right direction to making the world a better place.”

Mangine grew up in Northern Kentucky, playing high school football, marrying his high school sweetheart and eventually bringing their sons to UC athletic events where their grandfather is still an athletic trainer.

On Saturday, Hamlin toured the hospital where he recovered. He visited with the emergency medical responders who took the actionable steps to save his life. Then his foundation, along with the American Heart Association, put on a hands-only CPR training for the public.

The Mangines spent the morning at a UC Sports Medicine Emergencies Conference that was put on in partnership with the Matthew Mangine Jr. “One Shot” Foundation. The foundation also put on a hands-only CPR training that UC helped them administer, called Take 10 Training, which teaches CPR skills in just 10 minutes.

“Damar,” Matt Sr. said as he addressed the crowd. “I do not think that you will ever realize how much your story … impacted sudden cardiac arrest awareness. I really do appreciate you coming to Cincinnati.”

For the last seven months, that increased awareness created legislation surrounding AEDs on sidelines and coaches being CPR trained. It created conversations among schools and their athletic departments. It gave a larger voice to a problem the sports medicine community had been pointing at for years: that sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in athletes and those on the sidelines should have the skills and tools to save a life.

“Learning CPR today is truly equipping yourself with a super power,” Hamlin said.

As fans lined up to take photos with The Athlete Who Lived, Matthew Mangine Jr.’s parents delivered a hug seven months in the making to Damar’s parents, Mario and Nina Hamlin. They knew exactly what those first few scary minutes in January had felt like and the emotional toll it took.

The families went from advocating for a federal AED bill on Capitol Hill to providing CPR training in adjacent buildings − four miles north of where The Moment In January happened.

“It’s a relief to know we’re not in this alone,” Kim Mangine said. “There’s a lot of people that want to work together and improve the outcomes.”

The crowd packed up. Hamlin personally handed 50 youth sports teams a new AED. The Mangines needed to return to the sports medicine conference.

As the man in the white polo walked toward the exit − refusing to admit the slightest bit of exhaustion from sharing his son’s story at two events − Mario Hamlin shook Matt Mangine’s hand.

Seven months had come full circle.

“Conquer small mountains,” the one father said to the other, “one at a time.”

Stephanie Kuzydym is an enterprise sports reporter, with a focus on the health and safety of athletes. She can be reached at Follow her for updates on Twitter at @stephkuzy.

Hamlin and Mangine families: Touched by tragedy, united to save lives
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