COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — While the specifics of their on-field medical incidents are different, what happened to 24-year-old Damar Hamlin brings back memories from 2012 for Julius Palazzo, a central Ohio high school football referee.
“I’ve tucked this away as a souvenir of what happened and the fact I got the care I needed and survived,” said Palazzo while holding the officiating jersey he was wearing on September 28, 2012.
It’s a day Palazzo said he’ll never forget. But many of the details of what happened that evening have been told to him by others.
He was officiating a big high school football game between Bishop Hartley and Bishop Watterson. It was the second quarter when he suffered a heart attack. The jersey he still has is cut open from where paramedics needed to place the automated external defibrillator (AED).
“I just wanted remembrance of that night, and this is kind of what our first responders did to keep me alive,” Palazzo said. “They knew what to do.”
Julius Palazzo was watching the Monday night game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals on television. When Hamlin collapsed after making a tackle, Palazzo said he was reminded of his own on-field cardiac event more than a decade ago.
“That’s what really scared me in watching that whole episode,” Palazzo said. “It kind of brought back some memories, and the longer it took, I was worrying more for him.”
Exactly what happened to Hamlin has not been determined yet. Palazzo said if he hadn’t been at a game surrounded by medical professionals and others who helped, he probably wouldn’t have survived. It’s why he urges everyone to learn CPR.
“I think every ordinary person needs to be aware of how to do the CPR and use the AED because it can make a big difference in saving somebody’s life, I’m firsthand knowledge of that,” he said.
Palazzo was back refereeing games about a year after he suffered the heart attack. Just like people across the country, he hopes Hamlin’s condition continues to improve.
“I just hope he can resume a life he had before that happened, whether it’s with football or not, I’d just like to see him have a good life,” said Palazzo.