'I Was The Unluckiest Man In The World': Man Survives Meningitis, Heart Attack And Cancer, Only For Wife To Leave Him

Despite all of the hardship, he's come out on top.

21/07/2016 11:24

A dad-of-two feels like the world’s most unlucky man after surviving four years of serious health problems - only to lose his wife to his best man.

Oliver Pugh, 26, battled three bouts of meningitis, MRSA, a heart attack and a cancerous tumour that left him temporarily paralysed. 

To top it all off, his marriage to his wife Grace broke down at the end of 2015. 

But despite a terrible run of luck, he’s managed to overcome adversity and has fulfilled a lifelong dream of running his own bar. 

Oliver Pugh is in fine fettle now. 

Pugh’s problems began in 2012 when he first went to his doctor with what he thought was niggling hip pain. 

He said: “I had just put it down to wear and tear as I was doing a manual labouring job at the time and was really into my Kung Fu. 

“They thought it was nerve pain at first and then I was referred to an osteopath. 

“But when the pain just wouldn’t go away I told my GP that I needed an MRI scan. 

“They found an anomaly in my back when they did the scan but they weren’t sure whether it was a cyst or a tumour.” 

Tests later showed Pugh, from Buxton, had developed a cancerous tumour and he was referred to the Salford Royal Hospital, Greater Manchester. 

Surgeons failed twice to remove the growth and Oliver subsequently contracted meningitis three times as a result of his spinal cord becoming infected. 

He also lost half his thumb in an industrial accident in June 2012, and then picked up the hospital superbug MRSA when the wound became infected. 

In December 2015 he suffered a heart attack just as his wife left him. 

“I was definitely the unluckiest man in the world,” said Pugh.

“Because of the tumour my heart was pumping more and more blood around my body and was needing to work harder and harder while the tumour kept growing. 

“My marriage had broken down and I had moved back from where we were living in Chesterfield to Buxton. 

“I was on my way to pick up the deposit from the landlord we had been renting from. I was driving in the car and there was a terrible tearing in my chest. I thought I was dying. 

“I had tears coming down my face. I was accepting I was going to die. 

“My body started jolting so I pulled into a lay-by and called an ambulance. 

“I ended up in ICU for about a week.”


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He added: “Doctors later said it was Broke Heart Syndrome, which I think was a result of me trying to struggle on with so much going on in my life. 

“Fortunately because I was so young, the damage has since healed itself.” 

Just a month after his heart attack, Pugh, who is dad to Millie, four, and Monroe, two, suffered another medical setback when the pressure from the tumour caused him to lose the use of his legs. 

He said: “When the paralysis set in my limbs were very weak and I was wheelchair bound. I was faced with losing my legs and the doctors were faced with the question of kill or cure. 

“They said they would try to remove all the tumour again but it was the last time they would operate and whatever happens, happens. They needed to rip out the whole tumour and it could have damaged my spinal cord permanently.” 

Pugh went under the knife at the Stoke Royal Hospital on January 20. 

Amazingly, he defied doctors by standing on his own two feet just a day after the operation.  

He said: “As soon as they removed the tumour the doctors were amazed. It’s a massive trauma to go through but I was out of bed the next day dressing myself.”

Since getting the all clear in January, Pugh has focused all his attentions into setting up his own bar. 

“I’m really happy that I’ve gone from having no prospects to now having lots,” he said. “When I got better it strengthened my resolve.” 

His bar, Gilbert’s, opened on July 9, just over six months after he faced the prospect of never walking again.  

“I had never pulled a pint before we opened and we were really busy that day so I had to learn fast,” he said.

“When you think you are going to die you don’t have time to question things, you have nothing to lose.” 

Pugh, a former national and European Kung Fu champion said he now hopes to martial arts in the next three months. 

He said: “Kung Fu to me is my life. I’ve been involved with it since I was six and not being able to do it while I was ill destroyed me more than anything else. 

“It broke my heart. I got rid of all my equipment except for my medals to try and take my mind of it.  

“I was losing that part of my identity and it made me feel like it stopped me being a man.” 

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