The NFL pro remains in critical condition but doctors have seen 'substantial improvement.'
Doctors treating Damar Hamlin said the Buffalo Bills safety is communicating in writing, and one of the questions he asked after waking up on Wednesday was who won the pivotal game between the Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals.
During a news conference Thursday from University of Cincinnati Medical Center to update the NFL pro's condition and care, Dr. Timothy Pritts clarified that Hamlin is not speaking because he still has a breathing tube assisting him with ventilation, but the 24-year-old communicated in writing Wednesday night and again Thursday.
"When he asked, 'Did we win?' the answer is, 'Yes, Damar, you won. You've won the game of life,'" said Pritts, the Division Chief of General Surgery at UC Health. "That's probably the most important thing out of this, and we really need to keep him at the center of what's going on."
Pritts, along with Dr. William Knight IV, said they've seen "substantial improvement" in Hamlin over the last 24 hours. The doctors also added that his neurological appears "intact." Hamlin remains "critically ill" and in "critical condition."
The cause of the cardiac arrest is still not known, and doctors said tests are ongoing to determine the cause. As for Hamlin's immediate recovery timeline, doctors said they would like to see more improvement, which includes Hamlin breathing on his own and then discharged.
That being said, doctors said Hamlin has "a long way to go from the liberation of the ventilator," so the next big milestone is to see him breathing on his own.
"We sort of view the ventilator as an aid for him as he needs it. And so you know, after the initial event, we were supporting him on the ventilator 100 percent," Pritts explained. "And what our goal really is for liberation from mechanical ventilation is to gradually decrease the amount of support and let him pick up the difference and when we reach zero percent support, breathing tube comes out, and we define that as success."
Doctors added it's entirely too early to have a conversation as to whether Hamlin can return to the NFL. In the meantime, family and teammates have been by Hamlin's bedside since the scary incident.
"Per the physicians caring for Damar Hamlin at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Damar has shown remarkable improvement over the past 24 hours," read a statement released by the Bills. "While still critically ill, he has demonstrated that he appears to be neurologically intact. His lungs continue to heal and is making steady progress. We are grateful for the love and support we have received."
As reported by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Hamlin opened his eyes Wednesday night and "has been gripping the hands of those close to him" from his hospital bed.
During the first quarter of Monday's matchup, Hamlin tackled Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins, and both men appeared to be uninjured following the tackle. However, shortly after, Hamlin appeared to stumble and collapse on the field. He was swiftly attended to by medical personnel, who gave the athlete CPR on the field before ultimately transporting him to a hospital, where he is currently receiving treatment.
Doctors confirmed Thursday that Hamlin initially had a pulse and needed one round of CPR and the use of a defibrillator after Hamlin lost his pulse. Knight credited the Bills' medical staff for quickly jumping into action and saving Hamlin's life.