Sharon Hughes stayed up as late as she could Monday night, forcing herself to open her eyes. The widow of the only NFL player to die on the field during a game, she needed to know that history was not repeating itself. She needed to know that Damar Hamlin was still alive.
Hamlin, 24, a safety for the Buffalo Bills, was in critical condition after going into cardiac arrest during Monday night’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals. His medical episode stunned fans in the stadium and those watching on television, including Hughes, who watched Hamlin get to his feet after being hit in the chest, walk a couple of shaky steps, then collapse on the ground. back of him.
“I was very excited,” Hughes, 77, said Tuesday from her home in Texas.
Hughes said he felt an immediate bond with Hamlin’s family as he watched events unfold Monday. Hamlin’s mother was at the game and reportedly rode in the ambulance with him to the hospital in Cincinnati, which Hughes did five decades ago when her husband, Chuck Hughes, was dragged from a field in Detroit.
“Can you imagine how her mother felt?” Hughes asked in an interview. “It’s a horrible feeling and, well, I felt so sorry for the whole family last night.”
On October 24, 1971, 28-year-old Chuck Hughes, a wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, filled in for an injured teammate in the fourth quarter of a game against the Chicago Bears. With the Lions trailing 28-23, Hughes hauled in a 32-yard pass, his first catch that season, and was sacked. Several plays later, with 62 seconds left in the game, he fell facedown to the ground, clutching his chest.
He had suffered a fatal heart attack. Desperate attempts to revive him, including medical personnel beating his chest, were unsuccessful. People in the stadium watched in shocked silence as a stretcher carried him away.
“I knew something horrible had happened, because as they were carrying Chuck off the field, one of his arms fell off and his hand was moving from side to side, and I thought, ‘My God, I think he’s dead.’ Bears defensive end Ed O’Bradovich told the Detroit Free Press in 2021.
As life-saving measures at the hospital continued, play resumed before a numb crowd.
An undiagnosed condition
An autopsy revealed that Hughes had undiagnosed heart disease and that a blood clot had dislodged in a clogged artery, possibly from a blow he received during the game. The autopsy also showed that it was most likely his second heart attack; the first seemed to have gone unnoticed. He had been hospitalized seven weeks earlier for what doctors told the family appeared to be an injury to his spleen, lungs or kidneys. according to yahoo! Sports.
He left behind his wife, Sharon, and their son, Brandon Shane Hughes, who was just under 2 years old.
On Tuesday, Brandon Hughes, now 53, said he hoped Hamlin would make a full recovery and if Hamlin’s family needed him, “they have a support system here.”
“I would be more than happy to talk to them,” he said. “We certainly understand what they are going through.”
He also said he hoped NFL players would receive a proper medical exam for the kinds of heart problems that weren’t detectable in his father’s day.
“What happened to my father in 1971 is the Stone Age when it comes to medicine compared to today,” he said. “Are these young people getting the health care and screening tests they should?”
Chuck Hughes loved soccer since he was little, Sharon Hughes said, and she always supported his passion. She said she felt genetics played a bigger role in the death of her husband than her chosen sport.
“You can’t blame football,” he said, adding: “I never did.”
Little information was released about Hamlin’s medical condition after he collapsed Monday night. Sharon Hughes said that she was following the news, but for now she was focused on one thing.
“He’s alive,” he said. “Thanks god.”