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Not long after he left, a new nurse came into my room and stood over my bed. "Time for lunch," she said, sounding almost as cheerful as the guy in the green coat with the screwdriver. That was the best news I'd heard since I woke up. All I wanted was a solid piece of bread. Just one piece. "I've got your lunch right here," the nurse said, showing me a small plastic bag filled with what looked like dirty water. Ughhh, I thought. She took the bag and connected it to something alongside my bed, and this pale yellowish stuff came down a tube, twisted and turned and then disappeared into my nose.
And I always used to bitch about the lousy food at the training table when I was in school at Purdue.
I dozed off right after my eight-course feast, and when I woke up there was a hulking figure staring down at me. His eyes were red and there were tears running down his cheeks. His hair was disheveled, the way it always was. I couldn't tell if his shirt was hanging out, the way it always was. He held my hand and touched my face, the way a father would.
"Darryl...Darryl...Darryl..., it'll be all right," John Madden said to me, his voice so soft, so tender.
Madden, the Raiders' coach, kept shaking his head slowly from one side to the other. He was talking, too, but I wasn't listening very well. Then suddenly he let go of my hand and started waving his arms wildly, as he always did on the sidelines.
"Nurse! Nurse! Nurse!" he yelled.
Madden was mad about something, but he also looked very worried. A nurse came running into my room, and Madden pointed to one of the machines alongside my bed.
"That's stopped," he practically screamed at the nurse. "It was working when I came in here to see Darryl, but then it stopped. Just a minute ago. Fix the goddamned thing."
Sure enough, a plug had come loose on the machine that was hooked up to the tubes in my mouth, and, although I didn't know it, those tubes weren't suctioning the phlegm from my mouth the way they were supposed to. The nurse fixed the machinery and then took this long suction tube, stuck it down my throat and drew all the phlegm that had collected. It hurt like crazy and I started to cry.
Coach Madden tried to comfort me, but he, too, was in tears. Thank God for the coach. If he hadn't been there, and hadn't noticed that the suction tubes weren't working, I might have choked to death. Or at least that's what the nurse told me after Madden left to return to the Raiders' training camp, which was more than an hour's drive away in Santa Rosa.