Damar Hamlin’s collapse brought back painful memories for Chuck Hughes’ widow

‘It’s a horrifying feeling’: Widow of late Lions player Chuck Hughes opens up about watching her husband suffer a fatal heart attack during a 1971 game… and says ‘thank goodness’ Bills safety Damar Hamlin is alive after collapsing

  • Damar Hamlin is ‘trending upwards’ following his on-field heart attack Monday
  • He remains in critical condition after being resuscitated twice in Cincinnati
  • Sharon Hughes, the widow of Lions player Chuck,  had an emotional reaction
  • Chuck suffered a fatal heart attack during a 1971 game against the Bears
  • She said Hamlin’s situation brought back painful memories, but she’s optimistic
  • The fact that Hamlin survived the heart attack, she explained, is a good sign 
  • Click here for all your latest international Sports news from DailyMail.com 

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin is ‘trending upwards’ following his on-field heart attack during Monday’s game in Cincinnati, his uncle told CNN. He remains in critical condition after being resuscitated twice as tearful teammates, opponents, and fans watched and prayed at Paycor Stadium.

The anguish is quite familiar to 77-year-old Sharon Hughes, the widow of former Detroit Lions receiver Chuck Hughes who collapsed and died during a game in 1971.

‘Can you imagine how his mother felt?’ Hughes asked NBC during a phone call from her Texas home. ‘It’s a horrifying feeling and, well, I just felt so sorry for the whole family last night.’

Her late husband, Chuck, suffered a heart attack a half century earlier while playing the Chicago bears.

Chicago Bears linebacker Dick Butkus looks on after Detroit Lions receiver Chuck Hughes collapsed in 1971. Hughes would be pronounced dead within an hour due to an undiagnosed hart condition, which lead to a heart attack

Initially, it wasn’t apparent what had happened. Hughes had been tackled a few players earlier, but returned to the huddle and even made eye contact with Bears linebacker Dick Butkus.

Then he suddenly collapsed, and fifty minutes later he was pronounced dead.

A subsequent autopsy would later reveal that Hughes had a heart condition and a clogged artery. It’s believed the tackle he absorbed prevented blood from reaching his head. What’s more, he may have previously suffered a heart attack earlier in the 1962 season, but it appears to have been misdiagnosed as a spleen injury.

Sharon went into further detail about the experience with reporter Les Carpenter in 2013.   

 ‘It’s like being in a time warp,’ she said. ‘You know you are there but you are floating in the ether. I don’t know, what is it? Denial? Here I’m 25, he’s 28, you think you can do anything you want to and you never consider the alternative, which is death. Death took place unexpectedly; you have a loss of consciousness. You are just floating.’

On Monday, when Hamlin was went collapsed after tackling the Bengals’ Tee Higgins, that memory came rushing back to his widow, Sharon.

‘I was very emotional,’ she said.

At the time, a $10,000 trust fund was established for Chuck’s son, a two-year-old named Brandon Shane. Furthermore, Sharon sued Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit for failing to diagnose Chuck’s heart problem when he collapsed in the locker room earlier in the season. The two sides would settle for an undisclosed amount.

But Sharon never pointed the finger at the NFL or the Lions.

‘You can’t blame football,’ she said. ‘I never did.’

Brandon, now 53, offered to speak with Hamlin’s family as he recovers at a Cincinnati hospital.

‘They have a support system here,’ he said.

‘I would be more than happy to speak with them,’ he continued. ‘We certainly understand what they’re going through.’

Brandon said he is hopeful that NFL players are getting screened for the kinds of heart issues that his father’s doctors failed to detect.

‘What happened to my father in 1971 is the Stone Ages as far as medicine goes compared to today,’ he said. ‘Are these young men getting the medical care and screenings that they should?’

Sharon remains optimistic. Whereas her husband was declared deceased within an hour of collapsing on the field, Hamlin is reportedly improving inside a critical care unit.

‘He’s alive,’ she said. ‘Thank goodness.’

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