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At This Hour

NFL's Damar Hamlin In Critical Condition After Cardiac Arrest; House's Kevin Mccarthy Scrambles For Votes To Become Speaker. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired January 03, 2023 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan. AT THIS HOUR, an NFL player is in critical condition at a Cincinnati hospital and everyone is truly standing by for an update on his condition.

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed during Monday night football after what appeared to be a routine play and a routine tackle. The Bills say the 24-year old's heart stopped on the field.

And after going into cardiac arrest, the onsite medical team was able to restore his heartbeat before he was taken away in an ambulance. This whole thing playing out live on national television and before clearly shellshocked players, staff and fans. You see the team there together in prayer as the ambulance was leaving the field.

Let's go to Vince right now. Adrienne Broaddus is standing by at the hospital where Hamlin is being treated.

What is the very latest?

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, at this hour, he is on a ventilator. Fans are used to him fighting on the field to help lead his team to victory.

But right now that 24-year old is fighting for his life.


BROADDUS (voice-over): The first Monday Night Football game of 2023 between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals (AUDIO GAP) after Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin's tackle on Bengals' wide receiver Tee Higgins.

You see Hamlin standing briefly and then collapsing on the field.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Now another Bills player is down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I saw that young man fall to the ground the way he did, it -- it felt like my soul had left my body.

BROADDUS (voice-over): Within minutes after Hamlin's collapse, medical staff started CPR on him right on the field.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Usually you see players gather around a player. But when they saw them start doing chest compressions, you saw the reaction of the players walking away, being distraught and very emotional, the kind of thing we don't see on the football field.

BROADDUS (voice-over): The NFL star suffered a cardiac arrest. His heartbeat was restored on the field and an ambulance was driven onto the field to transport him to the local hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never seen anyone have CPR on the field.

BROADDUS (voice-over): Players huddled on the field, visibly emotional and the NFL then postponed the game.

RYAN CLARK, FORMER NFL PLAYER: We were not ready for this. We were not prepared for this. These are all men that spend time together growing together, making sure that one another is all right. Doing whatever you have to do for your brother. And you are now put in the hopeless position of being absolutely helpless.

BROADDUS (voice-over): Hamlin is receiving care at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where fans could be seen holding vigil. NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said some of Hamlin's teammates decided to stay behind.

Hamlin's teammate Stefon Diggs was captured in video, arriving at the hospital to visit his friend and teammate.

This as well wishes are pouring in from the sports world.

DONOVAN MITCHELL, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: From the Cavalier organization, he want to wish the best and praying for everything to go well.

LEBRON JAMES, L.A. LAKERS: The safety of players in all sports is most important. So it is a terrible thing to see.


BROADDUS: And so many were watching, including his mother, who his close friend tells me was in the stadium when all of this happened.

Think about the person who you are the closest to, how would you feel if you were watching that?

You would want the best doctors working. And that is what his family is hoping for right now, telling us he is a fighter -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Adrienne, thank you so much, at the hospital waiting for an update on his condition this morning. I appreciate it.

The focus is first and foremost on Hamlin and his health. There are also many questions this morning about the -- what the NFL is doing now. The league officially postponed the game after about an hour. And it is not clear how and when it will resume and what it all means in the context of standing by to see how this young man is doing in the aftermath of all of this.



BOLDUAN: And joining us now is CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta. And also with us is George Martin, former defensive end for the Giants and former president of the NFL players association.

Sanjay, I've been watching all morning. And it is the moment of the hit and the seconds right after that are telling of what could be happening here.

Can you walk us through what you see and saw?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Sure. It was really frightening obviously. I think jarring for anyone, even I'm a trauma surgeon, as you know. And it is still jarring to watch that.

But there are a few things that caught everyone's attention and now been sort of confirmed.

He takes this hit; it looks like a regular hit. It wasn't anything sort of particularly problematic about this when you watch it there. You see him stand up after that and that was important. A lot of times we think about spinal cord injury or even a brain injury.

Less likely given the fact that he stood up and then was standing for a few seconds before he then staggered back and fell. I think the concern at that point almost immediately that this was a cardiac arrest.

It could be a condition that is rare, known as commotio cordis, which is basically a blow to the chest and to the heart. It could happen at a precise time to the heart and it basically throws the heart into an abnormal rhythm.

It is rare for this to occur, maybe 2 dozen times a year type thing. But that actually causes the heart to go from pumping blood, as it normally does, to the heart muscle actually quivering or fibrillating.

Someone could be rendered unconscious quickly because they're not getting enough blood to the brain. And that seems to be what happened, according to the Bills statement that they released last night.

Two important things that we learned overnight. One is that there was this cardiac arrest and two was, very importantly, that they were able to restart his heart on the field. We didn't really -- couldn't see much at that point.

But that really struck me as well. They moved quickly; within seconds the medical personnel were there and even before it sounds like he got in the ambulance, they were able to restart his heart. And those minutes are so crucial, Kate.

BOLDUAN: And I know this is a rare thing to happen, as you've pointed out. Think about how many times people, NFL player or any football player gets hit with a tackle. It is a timing of where your heartbeat is and getting hit in a specific way to lead to this.

What is the survival rate or recovery rate as you know it?

GUPTA: With regard to how rare it is, the sports that you see it in are like baseball, where you have a fast-moving ball, or lacrosse, for example, that hits somebody in the chest and caused this sort of commotio cordis.

As far as the data on survival --

BOLDUAN: We're jumping over to Capitol Hill. Kevin McCarthy is speaking to reporters.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: We've worked for a long time. I've been leader for four years. I came into this position. We had less than 200 members. We're now sitting in the majority.

We put forth to the American public a commitment to America. There is (sic) times where we're going to have to argue with our own members if they're looking at for only positions for themselves and not for the country. For the last two months we worked together as a whole conference to develop rules that empower all members.


MCCARTHY: But we're not empowering certain members over others. Last night I was presented the only way to get 218 votes was if I provided certain positions or certain gavels, to take over a certain committee or certain budgets.

And they even came to the position where one Matt Gaetz said, I don't care if we go to plurality and we elect Hakeem Jeffries and it hurts the new front line members not to get re-elected.

Well, that is not about America. I'll always put America first, not a few individuals. The battle is for the conference and the country. And that is fine with me.


QUESTION: -- you have a math problem and you just can't get there.

So what do you do on the 10th vote, the 30th vote, if it just doesn't move?

MCCARTHY: I have the record for the longest speech ever on the floor. I don't have a problem getting a record for most votes. Thank you all.


MCCARTHY: I don't see how a few people, maybe it is five or 20, sit because they want a gavel that they can't earn by the conference of themselves. That is interesting to me. But that is not what the constituents voted them for. BOLDUAN: All right. You have Kevin McCarthy coming out really kind of

unannounced from what has been now, at this point, more than an hour, more than an hour behind closed door with the Republican conference in the basement of the Capitol.

They've been trying to work out what can be described -- an understatement would be -- as Hill drama. This is been kind of a historic amount of interparty battle over what Kevin McCarthy has been vying for, for so long, which is to get the Speaker's gavel, as they gavel in the new Republican majority.

Let me bring in David Chalian and CNN chief correspondent Manu Raju on this.

Manu, they just came out. And McCarthy making it clear he's ready to have a fight on the floor.

Things didn't simmer down behind closed doors, just now?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, Kate, I've covered a number of these closed door meetings. This is about as contentious as it gets. People were cursing at each other and going back and forth.

The leader making clear that he is not going anywhere. Kevin McCarthy said that, despite all of the push to get him out there by a handful of members, he's made concession after concession after concession, saying he's not ready to go there, not ready to go even further.

Others pushing back. He got into a back and forth and extended exchange with Chip Roy of Texas. He got into another one with Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. Another person who has indicated that he's likely to vote against him, saying that we are -- we have to move forward here.

And a number of people coming to his defense, saying that Kevin McCarthy was nominated by his conference and deserves to be elected speaker. And himself saying that he has earned this job.

But one thing that did not change, Kate, is the math. He still has a math problem. Because of the narrowness of the House Republican majority, 222 seats they will now occupy. That means he could only lose four Republican votes on the floor.

There are more than four Republican votes who plan to vote against him. Several members coming out just told me they are still hard no, people like Bob Good, Andy Biggs, Chip Roy, who I mentioned, signaling he's a no, and Scott Perry as well.

The list could be up to 10, 14, maybe even 20 members voting against McCarthy on the first ballot.

And then the question is, what happens next?

No one has any idea. This has not happened for a hundred years. We've gone into multiple ballots for a speaker's race. But the House cannot govern until they elect a speaker, which is why this could go on for hours.

And McCarthy is saying publicly and privately, he's not going anywhere. He's willing to grind it out. And his supporters are willing to do that, too, But the problem is the conservative opponents are saying, they're not moving, either.

BOLDUAN: And just to state the obvious to you two but for everyone out there, McCarthy loses 20 Republican votes, that is a real wow moment when you're talking about this speaker fight.

And as Manu is getting at, the history involved here. Let's talk about the mechanics in just a second. There is a lot that could go into it and what you're watching for the floor fight.

But David, I think the broader context is an important thing here about what Kevin McCarthy is fighting against in this moment. The way he just said, when it he went to reporters, is he's not going to let -- he said he's fighting against a few individuals who want something for themselves. But it is much bigger than that.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN HOST: It is. Although it was so interesting to look at the difference in Kevin McCarthy's posture and tone yesterday versus today. Yesterday he passed reporters in the Capitol and it was all optimism. We're going to have a great day today.

Now he may ultimately have a great day and end up with the speaker's gavel. But that's not what he just set expectations for.


CHALIAN: He came to prepare everyone that this could be a long haul. You're right to note the context here. It's odd to hear McCarthy as he's seeking this, he's pinning some members against him as anti- American.

That's awkward for someone to do who may at the end of the day be in charge of all these members. As Manu said, if he ends up with a win, he only has 222 votes. Each legislative battle will be like this.

This doesn't come out of nowhere. This is a 15-year burning civil war inside the Republican Party. We saw Trump's success with this in 2015. But this is still has not been put to rest and that is what Kevin McCarthy is facing today.

BOLDUAN: So then, Manu, lift the curtain slightly for what we -- and how we can with this. Because I think that a lot of people might not really know or really honestly care so much about some of the strange rules of how the House operates.

And some of what is being argued and negotiated and the compromises that laid out on the table.

What do the holdouts really want?

RAJU: They want more power. That is what it comes down to at the end of the day. One of the issues that has been on the table is to give them more leverage, to call for a vote to oust a sitting Speaker.

McCarthy's already moved significantly in their direction. Right now the rules say about half of the members could call for such a vote. He's agreed to move it down to just five members agreeing to that vote to oust a speaker.

Some of them want it moved down to one vote, one member to oust the Speaker. A number of conservatives have asked to be for specific committee assignments now, to give them more power, to give them more leverage.

McCarthy has not been willing to do that because it is not until the Speaker is named where they could formally go and pick the candidates because of the rules within the House.

So there are some pushback and disagreement. But there have been some movement in Kevin McCarthy, in the conservatives' direction, which is what is prompting enormous anger within the ranks. Not just with McCarthy.

I'm told in one exchange he said to Scott Perry, the congressman is pushing for more changes, what are you left to fight for?

Because he believes he has moved in that direction. Then another member came out here, Matt Rosendale, he said that McCarthy has lied about the concessions that he has made.

So you're sensing significant distrust about what is happening within the Republican conference leading to all sorts of questions about how they could govern, even if they elect a speaker.

But this vote could go on for some time. It will take an hour to go through the roll call, where members will announce who they are voting for. And then if no one gets 218, they get a second ballot and maybe a third and a fourth and a fifth.

But McCarthy said he is willing to go as long as it takes and his supporters are willing to stick with him for now.

BOLDUAN: Again, stand by to stand by. There are rare moments that truly no one could tell you how this is going to pan out when you're talking about how the cake is baked on Capitol Hill or whatever metaphor you want to use and this is one of them.

David, Manu noted the historic nature of what could be playing out which is, if he comes up short in the first round, this appears maybe likely, losing 20 Republicans, it would be historic.

No leader or trying or vying for speaker has lost a first round vote in like a century.

Should the way this Congress is starting off, no matter how this speaker fight ends, should it say something to the American people about the new majority and what they're looking at?

CHALIAN: Well, I think it is going to be the big question. Manu just noted that McCarthy supporters said they will stick with him -- but then he added a very important phrase in the end-- for now.

Because what is going to happen is if this started to look really messy, like the team that just won and was put in charge by the American people and the United States House of Representatives can't seem to govern, that is going to start causing concern about -- among a larger swath.


CHALIAN: Including McCarthy allies, than we currently see. And that could change the calculus. These Speaker races are dynamic things that happen on the floor. And so, yes, we haven't seen in our lifetime a second or multiple ballots.

That will, if that happens, undoubtedly change the psychology for people in the moment on the floor about how the American people are going to perceive what this new Republican majority sort of looks like.

And that is why I think we are all saying, the reality here, which is we have no idea how this will turn out, because it changes in the moment on the floor.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. OK, guys, stick with me. We're going to -- we're going to keep a very close eye on this to see how this is playing out. Manu is there on the Hill. David as well.

We're going to turn back to our top story, which is the disturbing and horrifying moment on the field of the collapse of Buffalo Bills player during the NFL game last night. We'll get back to talking about the latest on his condition and what the league is going to do next. Stay with us.





BOLDUAN: Let's get back now to the conversation about Bills safety Damar Hamlin just a short time ago. He's still at a critical condition at a Ohio hospital after collapsing on the field and going into cardiac arrest during last night's game.

With me, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and George Martin, former president of the NFL players association.

Thanks for sticking around in the midst of that breaking news. I really appreciate it.

George, when you see that video, when you saw that moment -- and you saw the reactions on the field, what did you think when you saw that moment? GEORGE MARTIN, FORMER NFL DEFENSIVE END, NEW YORK GIANTS: Well, it was completely heartbreaking to me and it brought back a sense of deja vu because I was on the field when Joe Theismann was on the field and the emotional toll it took upon the game itself.

And his team and our team, even though he was an opposing quarterback, it was tremendous. And it is difficult to resume that level of competition and that contest under circumstances like this.

But I would like to say this. I know that Roger Goodell has taken a lot of heat over the years and sometimes unnecessarily. But in this case, I would like to commend him and the National Football League for taking the unprecedented step of postponing this contest under those circumstances.

And we are still praying for his full recovery, Damar's full recovery in the process.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And I was going to ask you, because it is an unprecedented step of what the league did last night. I've heard some other former players say today, five to 10 years ago they don't think that league would have -- that they would have postponed the game.

They think it shows progress and evolution in what has happened over the years, George.

What do you think this means for the NFL?

What do you think the league should do now?

MARTIN: I think it is a learning moment for both the league and the teams. And I think the NFL players association as well.

I think when you put the importance of a person's health above profit, that makes a very big statement. And I think they got the support of the fans. The people left the stadium without complaint. This morning there is still an overwhelming concern for the health of the injured ball player.

And it was nice to see the unity on both sides of the ball last night, when the decision was made. So I think it is a healthy decision that is going to lead to the improvement of the NFL, both on and off the field.

BOLDUAN: That is a good point.

Sanjay, you said something in our initial conversation I wanted to ask you about because the Bills had announced overnight that his heartbeat was restored on the field. And we'd seen the medical staff, they had spent several minutes giving him CPR almost immediately when they got to him.

How critical were those moments?

GUPTA: Very critical. When you're talking about cardiac arrest -- and sometimes the terms cardiac arrest and heart attack and heart failure are used interchangeably. But with cardiac arrest, basically the electrical activity in -- the heart is not beating efficiently, if at all.

So you have to try to restore that heart rhythm so that you could start pumping oxygen through the body again. So minutes, seconds really matter there.

If there is data on this, the best data price suggests for every minute of delay, that is another increase of about 10 percent in mortality, likelihood of death. So really important.

And you saw them react very quickly, Kate. Within seconds, my understanding is, they were attending to him. We couldn't see a lot of what has happening on the field but as you point out, we heard this morning that they were able to restore his heart rhythm while he was still on the field.

A lot of people watched and they saw minutes go by before he got in the ambulance. That's because the EMTs and the medical staff were busy doing that important job of restoring that heart rhythm.

So it is hard to say. They still have to assess him. They're going to assess his other organs, how much blood supply did his other organs not get during that time. How much of an impact did that have. And that may take days to determine. But those minutes initially were most crucial.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

George, we know that his family was at the game and that his family -- his family friend was on CNN, has been speaking up this morning on CNN this morning and talked about how close-knit his family is. Let me play what Jordon Rooney said.