Community Stories Health

Sid Pugh and the Widowmaker

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In our last visit with Huntsville realtor Sid Pugh, we gave his story the title 72,000 Volts Later, “I Shouldn’t Be Alive!” A title like that usually promises a lurid tale of questionable veracity, but in Sid’s case the stories are 100 percent true, and hardly lurid at all.

“I’m very blessed to be alive,” Sid said, referring to his two major life-threatening experiences. One was a spectacular hot air balloon crash in 1983. But this story talks about the other — a far more subtle, but just as potentially deadly, event.

In September of 2018, Sid said he got “real, real sick.” He was exhausted, running a fever and “just not feeling good at all.”

Convinced he had the flu, he saw his doctor, where he tested negative for the flu, but positive for a different viral infection. The doctor prescribed a round of medication and bed rest.

Sid was scheduled to attend a conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma. By then, he felt fit enough to attend, but that afternoon, he went to bed and didn’t get up until the next morning.

Sid and his wife both knew something wasn’t right, but they pressed on until about a month later, when Sid began experiencing shortness of breath. This time, a chest x-ray revealed pneumonia, for which he was treated. As an international realtors’ convention loomed in Boston, Sid asked for an additional round of medication so he wouldn’t have to track down a doctor if he became ill out of town.

A 5K run for disaster relief was part of the festivities at the realtors’ convention, though Sid knew he was in no condition to run. But: “I was going to get out there and walk in and be a good team leader,” Sid said. The shortness of breath returned, but abated with an aggressive round of antivirals.

Stayin’ Alive

Sid was setting up the family Christmas tree the next time the symptoms hit, and he and his wife started to think there was something going on other than pneumonia.

Indeed there was. A cardiac catheterization revealed a 100% blockage of his left anterior descending artery — AKA “The Widowmaker.”

The details of the situation were enough to send everybody into a panic. Not only was the artery blocked, it had been so for more than eight weeks. One of the worst things a person can do in this condition is fly, and Sid had flown four times in the eight or more weeks since the artery had become blocked.

Cardiologists implanted a stent, and endeavored to chip away at the blockage, but given the severity of the occlusion and the length of time it had existed, no one was optimistic about the outcome.

Doctors told Sid he was a very sick man. His heart had been working overtime to keep him alive for the past eight weeks. He had lost 50 percent of his heart function, and he would be experiencing congestive heart failure for the rest of his life, which might not be all that much longer.

“The next 30 to 45 days will determine the rest of your life,” Sid said the doctors advised. “You need to go home and take it easy and let your heart recuperate as much as you can.”

The best he could hope for would be 50 to 60 percent functioning, the doctors said. The coming weeks would be critical to whatever recuperation they might hope for.

“Nothing Short of Miraculous”

Thirty-seven days later, after a full battery of heart function tests, his cardiologist called Sid and his wife into his office and pulled two chairs up to his desk.

“There is a God,” the physician said. “This is nothing short of miraculous.”

Sid’s heart was back to 100 percent. The doctor went on:

“I never would have suspected this, but it’s obvious. You’ve had a lot of people praying for you, and it’s obvious that prayer works.”

That left Sid and his wife with a number of things to ponder. Sid was convinced he needed to do something for God — to live out his thanks for what he had been spared. Something with youth, he thought, but he wasn’t sure.

A few days later a young woman showed up at the Pughs’ home. She was brand new to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) , and she had a bag of pecans to thank Sid for his involvement with them in the past.

“Well,” Sid said. “Here’s your sign.”

Since then, Sid has spoken to hundreds of people with what one listener called his “quite interesting and remarkable story.”

“We have to live each day as if it’s our last,” Sid said. “I don’t want to have any regrets when I die. I’ve kind of always been that way since the balloon accident — because it can be gone in the twinkling of an eye.”

About the author

Brad Hall

Brad Hall

Brad Hall is a pastor and the author of "Lousy Roger and Other Tales: A collection of Lectionary-based Sermons," available on In 2014, after 27 years of courtship, he married pop culture scholar Deborah Ann Miller. They share a place with two dogs, Scotty and Demitasse, and two cats, Quirkie and Brucie.

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