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Brianne Dressen

The Story of Brianne Dressen


This might be objectionable to read. It might strike the wrong tone. It might irk and aggravate some, and perhaps rouse offense and anger – both feigned and real – in others. That’s not the intent. Nor the goal. But either way, offense, anger, and even outrage have to be risked at this point. The hour is late and we need more voices of influence to speak. We need to reach a critical mass. 

So here it goes. To start with the obvious, cardiac arrest is a matter of life and death. If one is to suffer such a fate, one of the best places on earth to do so is on an NFL field, in an NFL stadium, during a game broadcast on live TV. 

Few places will have a better life-saving infrastructure in place, on site. Few will have faster response times with more highly trained professionals equipped with the necessary accoutrements. Thankfully, these facts paid the most important of dividends for the victim of the tragedy that unfolded on Monday Night Football earlier this year. 

His cardiac arrest is an extremely sensitive and personal affair. It should not be the subject of glib social commentary, or a mere weapon in the narrative wars pervading our lives. But those facts go both ways and, frankly at this point, we need more from Damar Hamlin.  

We, the people of all backgrounds and classes, need those in positions of influence to stand up and speak – loudly, boldly, and clearly. 

Consider, for example, Brianne Dressen. She was a trial participant. Then she became “patient #1.” Her story of injury and suffering should be heard by all. As should her story of strength and perseverance in pursuing a correct, and acknowledged, diagnosis, which eventually yielded life-altering treatment. 

Ms. Dressen did not create memes. She did not pose before self-portraiture murals. She did not play coy games with brief, shadowy, and semi-masked appearances on social media, which play like a coming attractions trailer to an upcoming corporate funded public relations campaign. Instead, she spoke about her injury and suffering. She spoke about her mistreatment and perseverance in pursuing real diagnoses. She spoke to raise awareness in others. And she sought to help the similarly injured by co-founding React19. It’s a nonprofit offering myriad forms of support – financial and otherwise – for those in need of similar acknowledgment, diagnosis, and treatment.         

Prior to her trial participation, Ms. Dressen was not a person of significant public influence. But she used her experience of injury and suffering to turn herself into one, on behalf of others. We need additional voices to do the same, as many as we can get. 

So although this might irk and aggravate some, and it might anger and offend others, we need more from Damar Hamlin. Or more precisely, we need him to change course, which, at the very least, could start with accepting the offer of a free exam from a “world class medical team” at a location of his choosing. That would involve but a nanoparticle amount of the courage expected of the similarly aged men who stormed Tarawa, or of the even younger women like Claudette Colvin who combated injustice. 

We hunger for a semblance of reality – for real data, real facts, real care. We don’t need to be fed a carefully stage-managed media campaign that will yield yet more profits and power for all the wrong players. We don’t need to be “taken on a journey.” Much to our dismay, we’ve already been on one. And we’ve already seen the accompanying unmooring of our institutions and culture. 

That’s why we need to reach a critical mass of awareness and pushback . . . and investigations and lawsuits. And we need to do so as soon as possible. We need more from Damar Hamlin. Because the rest of us out here who have rolled the dice in emergency-use trials do not have the backing of powerful and narrative-controlling corporate interests charting our future paths for us. Out here, unexplained excess deaths are rising, emergency response teams are not on site, and the heart-shaped memes increasingly appear self-serving. 

We need more. We deserve more. Otherwise, we must rebuff the advances of those who promote and profit from their own virtual non-realities.

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