BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Bills and Sabres co-owner Kim Pegula has not been seen in the public eye for months while being treated for what was, up until now, an undisclosed health issue.
This past June, we learned that Pegula was facing “unexpected health issues.”
Her daughter, tennis star Jessica Pegula, revealed more details Tuesday, opening up about her mother in a new article published in The Players Tribune.
Through the article, we learned that Kim suffered cardiac arrest during her sleep. Jessica wrote that her sister, Kelly, “saved her life” by performing CPR.
“They figured out what was wrong, they fixed it,” Jessica Pegula wrote. “But the big question was how she would be when she woke up. Our concern had now moved from the cardiac arrest to a brain injury. Not to mention all the other issues that come with both of those events.”
Jessica said Kim “moved out of the ICU after about a week, and into an in-patient care facility.”
“Today, my mom is still in recovery … she is improving every day.”
More in this story
• Bills, Sabres co-owner Kim Pegula being treated for “unexpected health issues”
• Kim Pegula ‘progressing well’ from health issue
• Only on 4: One-on-one with Bills Owner/President Kim Pegula (2021)
• Kim Pegula shows support for Asian community following Atlanta-area shootings of six Asian Americans (2021)
• Buffalo Bills president, co-owner Kim Pegula talks about her role as first female NFL president (2018)
• Jessica Pegula Honors Bills’ Damar Hamlin at Australian Open
Jessica shared further details about her mother’s recovery in the emotional first-person piece.
“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,” Jessica wrote. “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.”
The Pegula family purchased the Sabres in 2011 and a few years later the Bills in 2014. Soon after the purchase of the Bills, Kim helped found Pegula Sports and Entertainment, a combination of all the family’s assets.
While she remains the president of both Buffalo sports franchises, Jessica wrote that her mother’s involvement with the teams won’t be the same.
“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,” Jessica wrote.
Jessica found out about her mother’s cardiac arrest shortly after returning from a tennis tournament and cracking the top 10 of the Women’s Tennis Association’s world rankings.
“Suddenly, I went from ‘Let’s celebrate top 10 in the world’ to ‘Do I need to start thinking about my career after tennis a lot sooner than I thought?’ ‘Does my dad and family need help?’ ‘Maybe I should just go back to school and work for the family,'” Jessica wrote. “I am 28 and I take pride in being able to handle every situation thrown at me, but this was A LOT.”
Jessica Pegula is currently the No. 4 women’s tennis player in the world, according to the WTA’s rankings. She is coming off a singles quarterfinal appearance at the 2023 Australian Open and has reached the quarterfinals in four of her last five grand slam tournaments.
She has also found success in doubles alongside her partner, fellow American Coco Gauff, as the duo reached the semifinals at this past Aussie Open. Their best result came at the 2022 French Open, losing in the tournament’s finals in three sets.
Jessica has won two WTA singles titles in her career, the biggest of which came in October 2022 at the Guadalajara Open. After winning the finals in straight sets over Maria Sakkari, she dedicated the victory to her mom during her acceptance speech.
“I wanted her to know that even after a terrible six months, I still fought every day because of her,” Jessica wrote. “If she could fight through what she was going through, I could too. She cried during my speech and trophy ceremony … My mom deserved to see me lift a trophy after what she had been through.”
When Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered his on-field cardiac arrest against the Cincinnati Bengals, Jessica was 15 minutes away from beginning a mixed doubles tennis match in Australia. She wrote that “it felt like the exact same thing all over again” watching Hamlin collapse and medical personnel attempt to save his life.
“I knew how important time was,” Jessica wrote of Hamlin’s cardiac arrest. “I just kept thinking time, time, time, time … The medical staff and trainers who assisted that night really saved his life and were tremendous in his recovery. I ended up going on for mixed doubles and we won.”
She wore a No. 3 patch during her matches at this past Australian Open to honor Hamlin, writing “it didn’t feel like it was just for [Hamlin], it felt like it was for my mom as well.”
Jessica concluded the letter by saying she was thankful that her mom is now home and able to watch the Bills, Sabres and her tennis matches, writing “[Kim] never watched my matches before, because she got too nervous. Now she watches all of them.”
“Thank you to the Buffalo community for your patience,” Jessica wrote. “I know you have wanted answers and it took us a while to get there but it finally felt like it was time. Thank you to everyone who has respected privacy and shown me and my family tremendous support throughout this ongoing journey.