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  October 15, 2001

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Canada's wrestling matriarch near death
 CALGARY (CP) -- Helen Hart, matriarch of Canada's famous wrestling family, was near death Monday after suffering her second seizure in the last month.

 "It's minute by minute," said Ellie Neidhart, the eldest daughter of the sprawling Hart family.

 "The odds are not in her favour right now and the doctors say it doesn't look good."

 Hart, 76, has needed a respirator since Sunday, when she stopped breathing for more than a minute. Her vital organs are failing.

 Hart is the wife of Stampede Wrestling founder Stu Hart and mother of former grappling stars Bret (Hitman) Hart and Owen Hart, known as the Blue Blazer, who died during a failed stunt in 1999.

 Hart has been in hospital since suffering a seizure Sept. 29 and slipping into a diabetic coma. She rallied briefly, but had another seizure Friday.

 "She's very frail," said Neidhart. "Everything from her heart to her kidneys is being overtaxed. She smiles, but she's not squeezing my dad's hand like she used to."

 Retired wrestler Bret Hart, the most famous of the Hart brood, recently described his mother as a youthful spirit who likes to watch Sex and the City and the Sopranos.

 "She's educated, classy and refined," Hart wrote in a newspaper column just after Helen lapsed into a diabetic coma.

 "In the world of wrestling, she's known as a princess among pirates."

 American-born Helen Hart handled business affairs for Stampede Wrestling, the Calgary-based regional grappling circuit, while husband Stu built his reputation for training and promoting wrestlers. In her nonplussed manner, she would calm down hulking wrestlers looking for a larger paycheque.

 Throughout what could be a chaotic existence, the couple had 12 children and wrestling was the family's lifeblood. All eight sons ended up in the business for a time and the four daughters dated or married wrestlers.

 Earlier this year, 86-year-old Stu Hart was hospitalized for congestive heart failure and pneumonia that caused extreme shortness of breath.

 At the time, more than 1,000 get-well wishes fans from around the world flooded into the Hart household.

 The Hart family -- which has rarely shunned the spotlight -- has endured hard times in recent years, beginning with the death of youngest son Owen during a World Wrestling Federation stunt in Kansas City, Mo.

 A wrongful death lawsuit launched by Owen's widow, Martha, tore apart the once tight-knit family and was torture for Helen and Stu, who supported their daughter-in-law in her fight with the WWF.

Related stories

  • Oct. 5: Helen Hart on the mend
  • Oct. 4: Mother's health, book on Diana Hart-Smith's mind
  • Oct. 3: Helen Hart 'progressing slowly'
  • Oct. 2: Helen Hart still in coma
  • Sep. 30: Hart's condition improves
  • Sep. 29: Helen Hart: Backbone of the family
  • Sep. 29: Helen Hart in coma

    More on The Hart Family

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