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I really had it in for one doctor, a young guy, because he always made me feel that I was on my way out. He was never encouraging. His bedside manner was, you might say, crude. Most doctors wear a smile when they come into your room, even if they know you're not going to make it. Not this dude. He'd come in, his face would be sad, and he'd look at me, look at my charts, check my vital signs—and then I'd detect his head shaking, as if he were saying, "This guy's not going to make it out of here. Too bad."
I named that doctor "the Devil." I'd have called him the Devil to his face if I could have. He was a demon, the most negative thing I could think of, and he represented the worst: death. Just lying there and watching him day in and day out, I developed this terrible fear of him. He gave me hallucinations.
There were only a few people I trusted: Tina; the members of my family; Tom Hoffman, the Patriots' business manager at the time who had remained in Oakland to be with me and help my family; and John and Virginia Madden. John came by to see me just about every day. Once he arrived in my room close to midnight and apologized for being so late. I wasn't even expecting him. The Raiders had played a game that day in Denver, and when their plane landed back in Oakland, John rushed right over to see me. I can't tell you the love I have for that man. He did more to cheer me up than everyone else put together. And Virginia was forever stopping by or calling or doing things to help my family; on a couple of nights she even had the whole Stingley clan over to dinner.
As time passed, I became more aware of my surroundings. I was in a private cubicle of the intensive care unit, and my bed was something called a Stryker frame. I thought of it as "the pancake" because I was strapped flat on my back and the doctors and nurses could flip the bed whichever way they wanted—and me along with it. When they'd want my blood to circulate in some other way, they'd just flip me over or onto my side or straight up and down—pancake-style.
One night when I was asleep my nurse flipped me all the way over, so that I was facedown to the floor. When I woke up, Tina was stretched out underneath me.
"Baby," she said smiling, "I'm here to read you the sports pages." Which is what she did, starting with the player cuts by the NFL teams.
Ten days after I was injured a couple of orderlies walked into my room, played around with some screws on my bed, and wheeled me out of the ICU and down some corridors to a room that was colder than a meat locker.
"We're just going to do a myelogram on you, Mr. Stingley," said a doctor I hadn't seen before. A myelogram? What the hell was a myelogram? Nobody ever told me anything.
"The good news is that we won't have to transfer you to this swivel-type table because your Stryker frame is essentially the same thing," the doctor said.
And then the fun began.