He once walked in Damar Hamlin’s shoes

COLONIE – What happened on the Colonie Little League field a decade ago was literally a heart-stopping moment. Joe Mendrick – who was then 11 years old – was hit in the chest by a pitch. It triggered cardiac arrest, and a condition known as commotio cordis.

“All I know about my situation is based off what people tell me about it,” Mendrick, now a 22-year-old college graduate student, said.

Mendrick, who has an undergraduate degree in quantitative finance from Binghamton University, is on schedule to finish up his MBA later this year.

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“As I grew older, I kind of started to recognize just how lucky I was to not only survive that situation, but to be able to function afterwards,” he said.

Mendrick pointed out many people who experience commotio cordis wind up having brain problems or other neurological issues.

Mendrick and his family consider it a miracle – not just because he survived – but also because he came away 100% neurologically intact.

He remains eternally grateful for the quick thinking coaches, police, and paramedics who performed CPR on him that fateful night.

“I actually don’t remember much about the game itself,” he said, “There was a lot of different people that contributed to why I am here today and why I survived.”

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Fast forwarding to the present, when Joe turned on the TV set last Monday night and saw Buffalo Bills Safety Damar Hamlin lying unconscious on the football field. He says it brought back negative memories of going through rehab, and also the terror that he knows his parents had to deal with.

“I can only imagine what Damar’s parents are feeling as they were at the game,” he said, “They saw it happen to him. I really feel bad for what happened, and I understand exactly what they’re going through. I think it’s like a one in a million chance that not only did I survive, but I came out of it, and I was able to go back into regular life.”

Regular life for Mendrick included an element of caring and compassion for others.

After his recovery, Mendrick teamed up with the American Heart Association, crusading to convince state lawmakers and the governor to enact a law mandating CPR education in all schools across New York.

“Once the bill passed, I was very, very happy,” he said.

He’ll also be happy the day he sees Damar Hamlin donning his familiar number 3 jersey for the Buffalo Bills, knowing that someone else has conquered adversity.

“He’s a strong guy, so I’m positive that he’ll be able to pull through this and see success in the future,” Mendrick said. “I really hope that he ends up back on the football field.”

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Mendrick says he’s never been reluctant to try anything new — athletically or otherwise — since his injury.

What about his thoughts on the future and possibly watching his kids playing Little League?

“I will be a little anxious, but I don’t want that to stop them from doing what they love,” he said.