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Extremely Big Red
Rick Reilly
October 11, 2004
You go to a college football game. You find your seat. You stand and cheer. No big deal.
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October 11, 2004

Extremely Big Red

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"Patrick was facing a wall not a foot and a half from his face," says Dan Gray, the man in charge of the move for American Medical Response. "That's what he'd been staring at for months."

"I was sure I was going to die in the ambulance that day," says Deuel. His skin was stretched so thin, a cut or a hernia could kill him. Lying in the wrong position could kill him. Edith was scared, too, but she couldn't be there with him because she had to work.

"They'd said their last goodbyes the night before," Gray said. "They thought this was the end."

Six strong men pulled Deuel onto a Hovermat--a mattress that floats inches above the ground on a cushion of compressed air. The mattress was lowered onto a stretcher that was pulled into the ambulance by a winch.

Then they drove four hours to Sioux Falls--"We couldn't give him food," says Gray, "but he never stopped smiling"--where the hospital had already widened the door to his room and laid a king-sized mattress across two reinforced beds clamped together.

Placed on a strict 1,200-calories-a-day diet, Deuel began losing a toddler a day: as much as 20 pounds. Tell Jared from Subway that. Deuel just keeps getting thinner. "He really wants to go to that Nebraska game," says Harris.

Last week he was down to 684 pounds, which meant he had lost 388 pounds, which meant he could finally ride in a reinforced wheelchair (weight limit: 700 pounds), which meant he could actually be wheeled outside now. It was the first time he'd regularly felt sunshine on his face since 1997.

If he can lose another 334 pounds, he'll be at 350, which he hopes will allow him to walk proudly, on his own, into Memorial Stadium.

Nebraska had better hold a bunch of seats. Deuel and his sunny face have made so many friends, everybody wants to be there for his moment. Nurses, doctors, hospital janitors.

"My crew and I are coming," says Gray. "We love Patrick. He's a very smart, eloquent man. He's the favorite call we've ever made."

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