Damar Hamlin's breathing tube has been removed and the Buffalo Bills safety has been able to talk with his family and send an uplifting video message to the team as he recovers from cardiac arrest, according to the Bills.
The team tweeted encouraging updates on Hamlin's condition on Jan. 6, one day after doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center who have been treating him said he has shown “substantial improvement.” Hamlin, 24, collapsed and went into cardiac arrest after a tackle during the Jan. 2 NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals, which has since been canceled.
"Per the physicians at UCMC, Damar’s breathing tube was removed overnight," the Bills wrote in the update on Jan. 6. "He continues to progress remarkably in his recovery.
"His neurologic function remains intact and he has been able to talk to his family and care team."
Hamlin was also able video chat with the team via FaceTime on Jan. 6, telling the team, "Love you boys," according to a tweet by the Bills.
The latest positive news about Hamlin comes after his doctors spoke about his recovery on Jan. 5.
“We would like to share that there has been substantial improvement in his condition over the past 24 hours,” Dr. Timothy Pritts, division chief of general surgery at University of Cincinnati Health, said in a conference call with reporters.
“We had significant concern about him after the injury and after the event that happened on the field, but he is making substantial progress. As of this morning, he is beginning to awaken, and it appears that his neurological condition in function is intact. We are very proud to report that, very happy for him and for his family and for the Buffalo Bills organization that he is making improvement."
Pritts said Hamlin is still quite sick, but added the second-year player has reached a "turning point."
"Now, he continues to be critically ill and continues to undergo intensive care in our surgical and trauma ICU," Pritts said. "He is being cared for by ICU, neurocritical care teams, trauma surgery and a cardiology team, as well as our expert nurses and respiratory therapists. They are attending to him, and he still has significant progress that he needs to make, but this marks a really good turning point in his ongoing care.”
It’s unclear what caused the cardiac arrest, and his doctors have "many other things (they) need to work through" before confirming a definitive cause, said Dr. William Knight IV, director of the Emergency Medicine MLP Program at UC Health.
Pritts said that Hamlin has “no identifiable neurological deficit" at this stage but that it's necessary to let Hamlin’s body recover in its own time.
“We’re in a situation where we wanted to allow him to gradually wake up as his body was healing,” Pritts said. “Last night, he was able to ... follow commands, and he even asked who had won the game.”
“To paraphrase one of our partners, when he asked, ‘Did we win?’ the answer is, ‘Yes, Damar you won. You’ve won the game of life,'” Pritts added.
Hamlin is also now moving his hands and feet, Pritts confirmed.
While Hamlin's care team remains optimistic, “there are many, many steps still ahead of him,” Pritts said. “From our standpoint, we would like to see him continue to improve, to be completely breathing on his own and to be ready to be discharged from the hospital.”
That said, it's too early to know when Hamlin might be released from the intensive care unit or the hospital.
For now, Hamlin is aware of how his ordeal has captured the nation’s attention.
“He expressed surprise that he had been not with the world for two days, and we’ve talked to him about all the support that’s been given from Cincinnati, Buffalo and really all across the country, for him and his family during this time," Pritts said. "His mom and dad have talked to him about what has happened, and we expect that we'll continue to have ongoing conversations with him. ... We know that it’s not only that the lights are on, we know that he’s home.”
This coming weekend marks the final week of regular season play in the NFL. The Bills are scheduled to host the New England Patriots, while the Bengals will entertain the Baltimore Ravens, with both games scheduled for Jan. 8.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com