'The Damar Effect' -- the nationwide backorder on a lifesaving machine and the 620% increase in CPR

NFL player Damar Hamlin had a televised sudden collapse on January 2.

August 17, 2023, 5:05 AM

NFL Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin’s televised sudden collapse on January 2 appears to have significantly raised awareness of lifesaving CPR, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

The AHA says they saw a 620% increase in page views to the “Hands-Only CPR” content pages on its website, along with a 145% increase in page views to their "What is CPR" page. CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) is a lifesaving procedure performed to help keep blood flowing to vital organs such as your brain and heart when your heart stops beating.

Every year, just under half a million Americans die from a cardiac arrest. Globally, cardiac arrest claims more lives than colorectal cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, influenza, pneumonia, auto accidents, HIV, firearms, and house fires combined.

Damar was resuscitated using CPR and a lifesaving AED machine, which sends an electric shock to a person’s heart when they experience an electrical disturbance. AEDs were already on the FDA shortage list since July 2022 due to increased demand and global semiconductor shortages.

Now, the devices are in even greater demand, and are expected to be backordered through 2023. Two major AED manufacturers - Philips and Stryker - tell ABC News they are now growing their AED business in response to increased awareness.

In a statement, a Philips spokesperson said the company "has seen the impact of the 'Damar Effect' and record post-pandemic volumes for AEDs. This increased interest has prompted us to make significant investments in our production capacity and critical component supply to get us back to our current lead time of 2-3 weeks. This lead time includes the first FDA-approved AED for home use, our HeartStart AED.”

A Stryker spokesperson tells ABC News the company is "committed to saving lives and making public access AEDs more readily available in workplaces and communities across the globe. Stryker has seen significant growth in this space in recent years, with a marked increase over the course of 2023, reflective of the increased attention around SCA being the third leading cause of death in the United States.

PHOTO: In an undated stock photo, a person practices chest compressions on a CPR training dummy.
In an undated stock photo, a person practices chest compressions on a CPR training dummy.
STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

“In these last 9 months we have seen such a huge increase in awareness and education, and just people wanting to learn more about CPRs and AEDs and cardiac arrests then I have seen in my nine years prior”, said Dr. Comilla Sasson an emergency medicine physician and the Vice President for Health Sciences with the American Heart Association.

"It’s a pretty amazing event,” she told ABC News.

Americans' awareness may have been given another boost on July 17, when 18-year-old Bronny James experienced sudden cardiac arrest while playing basketball at U.S.C.

Despite this increased awareness, the U.S. falls behind other countries, including European countries, where bystander CPR rates are in the 80-90% range, Sasson said.

In the U.S., fewer than half of people who experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital receive bystander CPR, according to the 2023 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics from the American Heart Association.

Meanwhile, safety experts say workers don’t have adequate access to AED machines, or free CPR training from employers. Among 2,000 employees in corporate offices, hospitality, education and industry/labor: 55% can’t get first aid or CPR and AED training from their employer, and half of all US workers (51%) cannot locate an AED machine at work at all according to the American Heart Association.

In the U.S., Black people and those who are in lower socioeconomic status neighborhoods are less likely to have CPR performed than a person in a higher socioeconomic status neighborhood and that is white.

“Where you live should not determine whether or not you survive a cardiac arrest," Sasson said.

But Sasson says AHA is “up for the challenge." The organization has community sites for training, free 90-second videos on their website and promote a “train the trainer” model approach to encourage CPR awareness and education by paying it forward.

Since his cardiac arrest and throughout his ongoing recovery, Damar Hamlin has become an advocate for bystander CPR training.

“Damar Hamlin has been really amazing in terms of working with the AHA and helping to spread the best news that it’s not just about you learning, it’s about sharing that information with others around you,” Sasson said.

CPR, said Sasson, "should be considered a life skill."

Dr. Louis Loiodice, MD is an Emergency Medicine Resident Physician at Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn, New York and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit

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