Jessica Pegula opens up about mother’s health scare: ‘My sister had to give my mom CPR and saved her life’

Shahida Jacobs
Jessica Pegula in action
Jessica Pegula

Jessica Pegula has penned a heartfelt letter about the trauma she and her family have gone through the past year after her mother went into cardiac arrest and was kept alive by her sister Kelly, who administered CPR.

Kim Pegula, the co-owner of the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres alongside her husband Terry Pegula, suffered a “health issue” in June last year, but the family kept information to a minimum.

Instead the Bills issued a short statement saying: “Kim is progressing well and is resting and rehabilitating from a health issue. We are grateful for the medical professionals providing her care and to everyone for their prayers and well wishes. We ask that you please continue to respect our need for privacy during this time.”

At the time, Jessica had just made her way back home to Florida after reaching the French Open singles quarter-final while she finished runner-up with Coco Gauff in the women’s doubles.

But her joy was short-lived as her mother went into cardiac arrest.

In a piece titled “I Want to Talk to You About My Mom” in The Players Tribune, Pegula starts off by saying Buffalo Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin’s recent health scare where he went into cardiac arrest following a tackle during an NFL game helped her to open up.

She wrote: “It all started in Australia after the incident with Damar Hamlin. I texted my husband, Taylor, that the situation with my mom was weighing on me. When can we start talking about it? When can I tell her story, my story, my family’s story? Everyone just keeps asking me. I really need to get it off my chest.

“This is a story about my mother, my family, and the past year.

“In June 2022, I had just flown back to Florida from the French Open. I made the quarterfinals in singles and the finals in doubles. It was an amazing two weeks full of a lot of positives, including cracking the Top 10 in the world.

“A few days after I got home, I got a call around midnight (on my mom’s birthday) from my sister Kelly who was staying at my parents’ house. Something was wrong with our mom, and she was headed to the hospital in an ambulance.

“My mom was asleep when my dad woke up to her going into cardiac arrest and she was unresponsive for quite a while. My sister gave her CPR until the ambulance arrived. She saved her life. Even though she doesn’t like to take credit for this terrible situation, she absolutely saved her life, followed by the critical job performed by the paramedics who arrived and were able to restore a heartbeat.”

The family remained quiet despite the trauma they went through and Pegula admits the first few weeks were incredibly difficult.

“We lived in that hospital for basically two weeks. We took shifts, we brought each other food, we knew all the nurses and doctors, we even knew their schedules,” she continued.

“We had to force my dad to go home and sleep, but most of the time he didn’t. He would go sit in his car to get away or come to my house. He didn’t want to go back to their house unless my mom was back with him. When they say one day in the hospital equals a week to recover, that is no joke. We were all mentally and physically exhausted.”

Pegula says she was determined to play at Wimbledon even though her dad urged her to skip the event. She took part in the grass-court Grand Slam, but lost in the third round.

Nearly seven months after her mom went into cardiac arrest, she is on the mend, but things won’t be the same again.

Pegula, who is currently No 4 in the WTA Rankings, added: “Today, my mom is still in recovery and although it is the same answer every time someone asks me, it is true, she is improving every day. She is dealing with significant expressive aphasia and significant memory issues. She can read, write, and understand pretty well, but she has trouble finding the words to respond.

“It is hard to deal with and it takes a lot of patience to communicate with her, but I thank God every day that we can still communicate with her at all. The doctors continue to be blown away by her recovery, considering where she started, and her determination is the driving force of that.

“My mom is the president and owner of both the Buffalo Sabres and Buffalo Bills. She loved to work. She did everything and our family constantly told her how she needs to slow down and take time for herself.

“She was the woman behind my dad’s success and my dad would happily admit that. She jumped into this journey with him and learned many lessons along the way, breaking a lot of barriers. She was the shift in culture, positivity, and the heartbeat of many of the employees. She gave everyone so much of her time and effort. She lived it and loved it, and it was felt by everyone she met. Now we come to the realization that all of that is most likely gone. That she won’t be able to be that person anymore.”

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