He is only 26 but one Buxton dad-of-two has already dealt with cancer, three bouts of meningitis, MRSA, paralysed from the waist down and a heart attack.
Oliver Pugh spent a lot of time in hospital and his focus was opening a bar, for him that dream has become a reality and Gilbert’s on the High Street is open for business and will be serving food from next week.
He said: “I needed to regain my lost years and I’m absolutely thrilled to be where I am now. It’s been a very bumpy ride.”
When Oliver was 18 he was a black belt in kung fu, he took a gap year and went to Australia, Japan, Thailand and Singapore.
The former Buxton Community School pupil came home and was working in the building trade and was still involved with martial arts.
He said: “I was the national and European champion and had my own school with about 20 students.”
He lost half his thumb in an industrial accident which required three operations and he also contracted MRSA in hospital. With a niggling back pain and a pregnant partner Oliver made a doctor’s appointment.
Oliver said: “I found out two days before my second child was born that I had a tumour the size of a golf ball on my spinal cord.”
The cancer resulted in three bouts of meningitis, and he also went through two failed operations to remove the cancer.
“I wasn’t at work so I helped out with the children while my new wife was studying, she got a place at Sheffield University and we moved to Chesterfield.”
The marriage broke down and in December 2015 Oliver moved back to Buxton. He said: “It was really tough because I was so poorly but my kids needed me so I had to stay strong.” Just days later he had a heart attack which doctors said was Broken Heart Syndrome.
In January his cancer deteriorated and he ended up in the Royal Stoke Hospital for several weeks as paralysis took hold of him from the waist down. It was in the hospital he decided to open a bar.
Making a dream a reality
Oliver went for another operation in January this year which was a success and the healing process began.
With grant help Oliver has secured premises and opened Gilbert’s on carnival Day.
He said: “It has been a bumpy road and I have battled more than a few demons to get here I’m so proud.”
The building is called the Gilbert and Sullivan and was once luxury accommodation for festival goers.
Oliver said: “My new partner lost her brother, David Gill, to a brain tumour and his nickname used to be Gilbert
“And knowing the name of the building it felt very fitting to call it Gilbert.”
The bar is already open and next week two chefs and four waiting staff will start and Gilbert’s will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as Sunday Roasts.
Oliver added: “I have a really strong work ethic and I hated not working.
“This is the time for me now.”