Just four months after incurring a serious injury in a crash that could have been deadly, Matt Hughes was standing up, walking around and laughing with friends and family.
Hughes, the UFC Hall of Famer, returned to HSHS St. John’s Hospital on Tuesday to honor the two nurses who treated him immediately after his truck-train crash in June, per a release sent out by the hospital. Hughes attended the event with his wife Audra and daughters Hanna and Katelyn.
Hughes’ best friend Tony Zucca nominated nurses Ashley Hull and Megan Simpson for the DAISY nurse award, given each month to a nurse at St. John’s Hospital, and the two women won it in October and November. Hull and Simpson are nurses in the intensive-care unit. Hughes was airlifted to the hospital and to ICU on June 16.
“My family and friends have told me that the entire team at St. John’s was really good to me and all of them,” Hughes said Tuesday during the ceremony. “It means the world to me. Thank you all so very much.”
Hughes, 43, was driving a pickup truck in Raymond, Ill., near his hometown of Hillsboro, on that June date. He drove the truck over train tracks, but right into the path of an oncoming train, per a police statement. The train struck the pickup on the passenger side.
Days after the crash, Hughes was in stable condition with no broken bones or internal injuries, but only minimally responsive, according to his sister Beth Hughes Ulrici at the time.
In August, Zucca posted a video on Instagram of he and Hughes doing some playful Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Two weeks before that, he shared a photo of he and Hughes leaving the hospital to get some sushi.
I leave for only five days and come back to his ass wanting (and able) to roll! Unbelievable! Spare me the grappling lessons. The only things that are important: firing muscles that haven't been used in a long time...and having fun! So awesome to see that smile and hear that laugh again. If I posted a video from day one and compared it to today...and you still didn't believe in miracles...well, there's nothing that's ever going to change your mind. #believe #miracle #getreadyrenzo #superfight #adcc #onemoreround #ufc #hecanstillbeatmeup @renzograciebjj @ufc @matthughes9x
I can't even describe the emotions I am feeling as I write this post. Less than two months ago I didn't know if my best friend was going to make it, and tonight we made a jail break for sushi (in disguise. Ha). Talk about a rollercoaster of emotions! His progress is nothing short of a miracle. He is working so hard and fights through the frustration. He is, as he's always been, an inspiration. I can't wait to hit the mats with him again...and he told me today that he has "one more round" left in him! Ha. (He laughed...but definitely wasn't joking!). Thank you for all of your prayers! Please keep them up as he still has a long road ahead of him. I am witnessing the power of them firsthand! So thankful!
“Less than two months ago I didn't know if my best friend was going to make it, and tonight we made a jail break for sushi (in disguise. Ha),” Zucca wrote. “Talk about a rollercoaster of emotions! His progress is nothing short of a miracle. He is working so hard and fights through the frustration. He is, as he's always been, an inspiration.”
On Tuesday, Zucca spoke in gratitude of Hull and Simpson, the two nurses who helped Hughes at the first initial point to his road to recovery.
“They were extremely patient and knowledgeable with our countless questions; they would bring coffee when our eyes couldn't stay open a minute longer,” Zucca said. “And the professionalism they displayed instilled confidence in us in that we knew Matt was in great hands. They are masters of their craft and the most caring nurses I have ever encountered. Matt has a long road ahead of him, and I can say with certainty that the family wishes Ashley and Megan could stick with us every step of the way. St. John's should be proud of employing people of their caliber.”
Hughes is a two-time UFC welterweight champion and one of the best ever to compete in that weight class. He owns career wins over the likes of Georges St-Pierre, BJ Penn and Royce Gracie.