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

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

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin is ‘trending upward’ following his on-field cardiac arrest 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 ordeal is 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 must have felt?’ Hughes asked NBC in a phone call from his home in Texas. ‘It’s an awful feeling and, well, I felt so sorry for the whole family last night.’

Her late husband, Chuck, suffered a heart attack half a century ago while playing for the Chicago Bears.

Chicago Bears linebacker Dick Butkus watches Detroit Lions receiver Chuck Hughes fall in 1971. Hughes would die within an hour of an undiagnosed heart condition, which led to a heart attack

Chicago Bears linebacker Dick Butkus watches Detroit Lions receiver Chuck Hughes fall in 1971. Hughes would die within an hour of an undiagnosed heart condition, which led to a heart attack

Chuck Hughes, Detroit Lions wide receiver, July 19, 1971 file photo

Chuck Hughes, Detroit Lions wide receiver, July 19, 1971 file photo

At first, it wasn’t clear what happened. Hughes was tackled by several 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 reveal that Hughes had a heart condition and a blocked artery. It is believed that the tackle he was absorbing prevented blood from reaching his head. Furthermore, he may have previously suffered a heart attack during the 1962 season, but it appears to have been misdiagnosed as a spleen injury.

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Sharon gave more details about the experience to reporter Les Carpenter in 2013.

‘It’s like you’re in a time warp,’ he said. ‘You know you’re there but you’re floating in the ether. I don’t know, what is that? Denial? Here I am 25, he is 28, you think you can do whatever you want and you never consider the alternative, which is death. Death occurred unexpectedly; you lost consciousness. Just float.’

Sharon Hughes, widow of Detroit Lions football player Chuck Hughes, sits quietly by his casket during graveside services in San Antonio, October 27, 1971

Sharon Hughes, widow of Detroit Lions football player Chuck Hughes, sits quietly by his casket during graveside services in San Antonio, October 27, 1971

Detroit Lions wide receiver Chuck Hughes lies on his back with his right arm on a stretcher, in Detroit, October 24, 1971

Detroit Lions wide receiver Chuck Hughes lies on his back with his right arm on a stretcher, in Detroit, October 24, 1971

As the helmet of Detroit Lions wide receiver Chuck Hughes lies near the spot where he fell in the final minutes of the Oct. 25, 1971, game between the Lions and the Chicago Bears, team doctor Edwin Gis , bows to Hughes, right.  Hughes, 28, had just completed a pass pattern, when he tripped and fell.  He later died at a Detroit hospital

As the helmet of Detroit Lions wide receiver Chuck Hughes lies near the spot where he fell in the final minutes of the Oct. 25, 1971, game between the Lions and the Chicago Bears, team doctor Edwin Gis , bows to Hughes, right. Hughes, 28, had just completed a pass pattern, when he tripped and fell. He later died at a Detroit hospital

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin is 'on the mend' following his on-field cardiac arrest during Monday's game in Cincinnati, his uncle told CNN.  He remains in critical condition after being revived twice as tearful teammates, opponents and fans watched and prayed at Paycor Stadium

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

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

‘I was very emotional,’ she said.

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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 not diagnosing Chuck’s heart problem when he collapsed in the locker room earlier in the season. The two sides will settle for an undisclosed amount.

But Sharon never coached the NFL or the Lions.

‘You can’t blame football,’ he said. ‘I did not do it.’

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin (3) lies on the turf after making a tackle on Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins, who is blocked from view, as Buffalo Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (49) helps the end of play in the first half of an NFL football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills on Monday.  After getting up from the play, Hamlin collapsed and was given CPR on the field

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin (3) lies on the turf after making a tackle on Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins, who is blocked from view, as Buffalo Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (49) helps the end of play in the first half of an NFL football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills on Monday. After getting up from the play, Hamlin collapsed and was given CPR on the field

Brandon, now 53, offered to talk to Hamlin’s family while he was recovering in a Cincinnati hospital.

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

‘I’m more than happy to talk to them,’ he continued. ‘We certainly understand what they are going through.’

Brandon said he hopes NFL players are screened for the kinds of heart issues his father’s doctors didn’t detect.

‘What happened to my father in 1971 was the Stone Ages compared to today,’ he said. ‘Are these young people getting the medical care and tests they should?’

Sharon remains optimistic. While his wife was pronounced dead within an hour of collapsing on the field, Hamlin is reportedly improving in a critical care unit.

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‘He’s alive,’ he said. ‘Thank God.’

Bills players surround teammate Damar Hamlin (3) after his cardiac arrest Monday

Bills players surround teammate Damar Hamlin (3) after his cardiac arrest Monday