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'I was at a loss for words': Mom of Browns cornerback, Denzel Ward, reflects on Damar Hamlin's collapse

Denzel Ward; American Heart Association
Posted at 5:49 PM, Jan 03, 2023

CLEVELAND — Many are hoping Buffalo Bills safety, Damar Hamlin, recovers after he went into cardiac arrest during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals Monday evening.

Medical officials jumped into action, administering CPR, while using an automated external defibrillator machine, also known as an AED. AED’s can save lives in a matter of seconds but can look intimidating. Nicole Ward and her son, Denzel who plays for the Browns, are working to change that by turning personal tragedy into triumph, through heart awareness and education.

In May 2016, Nicole Ward was cooking dinner, while her husband, Paul Ward Jr., was at a spin class.

“Not even halfway through, I received a call from his phone, and it was the lady on the other end and she's hysterical and sharing you know your husband fell off the bike,” Ward said.

After being taken to the hospital, Paul suffered from cardiac arrest and died that day. Ward said no one administered CPR or used an AED machine at the gym. Ward added that she later learned the AED was just 32 steps away from the workout room.

“That was the second most devastating thing to me to know that his life could of potentially been saved, but it wasn't,” said Ward.

For the Ward’s, fitness and football are a way of life. Her son, Denzel, played football at OSU and is now a cornerback for the Browns. But tragic memories of heartbreak couldn't help but flashback after last night's Bills versus Bengals game in Cincinnati where Bills' player, Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest on live TV.

“I was at a loss for words,” said Ward. “All could do is pray.”

After losing her husband under similar circumstances and watching her son Denzel spend every Sunday on the football field, Ward can't help but worry.

“A lot of times this condition happened to kids that are healthy, just like Damar and Denzel and there's no signs and warnings for a lot of other athletes,” said Ward. “There's no age attached to sudden cardiac arrest.”

In the face of adversity, Ward and Denzel turned their tragedy into hope. They started the "Make Them Know Your Name Foundation," which promotes heart awareness and education.

“Helping someone else in a situation like this we feel like everyone has an opportunity to make them know your know in a way of saving a life,” said Ward.

Warrensville Road Community Baptist Church received an AED from MTKYN foundation back in October. Pastor, Gregory Walker said the need was high in his clergy.

“We've had some incidents in the experiences of worship, as well as gathering when we needed to call medical professionals to attend to those who were in our facility,” said Walker.

MTKYN also trained church members on how to use an AED. Walker is grateful for their donation said it's always better to be safe than sorry.

“We don't want to have to use it but it's better to have it than not need it than to need it and not have it.”

To learn more information about MTKYN, click here.

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