Jan. 14, 2009  

IN MEMORIAM: Pedro Abigantus, Journalist & Friend

Pedro Abigantus 2I am so sad and shocked to have to write these words – Pedro Abigantus has passed away.

Pedro, 44, was the treasurer of the South Florida chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2002.

He was a lifelong journalist, having worked as a sports reporter for the Hollywood Sun-Tattler, an editor at the Chicago Sun-Times and at the Fort Worth Star Telegram and lastly at the Broward edition of the Miami Herald. He also spent some time at the San Antonio Light.

I started out with Pedro in journalism at the Sun-Tattler. I was 20 and he was 19. We were friends, double dated, etc. I remember when he met his now wife, Nuvia.

Pedro battled cardiomyopathy for many years and far outlived any doctors’ predictions. He wanted to return to Florida and in 1997 asked me if I would put in a good word for him at The Herald. I did so, and he was named “hometown editor.”

But his heart condition worsened after he was put on the night shift at the Miami Herald’s downtown Miami office. After a terrible car accident driving to his home in Pembrokes Pines at 2 in the morning, even he realized (with his wife’s urging) that it was time to go on disability.

Pedro refused to be disheartened about his situation. He shifted into real estate, rehabbing apartment buildings into condos. He was almost always upbeat and smiling.

Pedro lived in a gorgeous house in western Pembroke Pines with Nuvia and his parents. The extended family – which included his cousin, Fort Lauderdale lawyer Carlos Reyes — loved their dogs, going to fancy restaurants, watching movies and supporting Republican causes.

For the last few years, it seemed like Pedro was constantly in and out of the hospital. His medications needed retooling, his pacemaker needed updating, his blood pressure dropped. That’s why I became cavalier about these hospital visits. Pedro, being such a fighter, would always pull through, I felt. I thought he had at least nine lives.

He went back and forth about whether to get a heart transplant, getting different opinions from doctors at the University of Miami and in Texas. At Miami, they said he had to lose a lot of weight first. Pedro also had concerns about undergoing such a serious and scary operation. But he ultimately was put on the transplant list, I believe.

This past year, Pedro finally beat one demon and lost 60 pounds or so on Nutri-Systems. He said his health improved dramatically and he went an entire year without being in the hospital. He was well enough to come to my birthday party in November for the first time in years. I thought he had beaten the heart condition. But I was wrong.

I and others got an email from Pedro Monday that he would be having surgery Wednesday at Broward General Medical Center, to replace the wiring around his pacemaker. It seemed like “just another hospital visit” to me and I wasn’t worried – although the fact that it would take eight or nine hours of surgery did give me pause.

I sent Pedro an email Tuesday saying, “I’ll be thinking of ya, good luck,” and he replied in an email, “thanks, baby.”

It was at about noon Wednesday that I got an email – “Pedro is not doing well, pray now!”

Something went wrong during surgery. The doctor accidentally tore an artery, then sewed it up, but Pedro’s weakened heart stopped. They tried to resuscitate him for an hour.

Pedro Abigantus died at the age of 44 Wednesday. He will be missed.

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