It was a shocker to hear firsthand that the doctors didn't think I'd ever walk again. And all the time I'd been imagining getting back into my Patriots uniform. No. 84, trotting onto the field to a standing ovation—and then catching a couple of touchdown passes. But now, barring a miracle, I had played my last game, and I would never walk again.
I immediately made a promise to myself: I'd make them pay. "Them" was everyone. I'd treat the rehab institute as a foreign and hostile place. I would do everything in my power to let the doctors, nurses and therapists know that I hated it there, and I'd make life absolutely miserable for everyone who came into contact with me. The way I saw it, no matter what you call it, an institution is a place where foreign forces try to gain control of your mind. Ain't no way they were going to control my mind. I'd show them. I'd beat them away.
After about a week in the ward for quads, I got my own private room and had private-duty nurses 24 hours a day. Just as I was settling in, a lady in a white coat walked through the door and said in a cheerful voice, "Lunch, Mr. Stingley."
"Get out of here and take that junk with you," I snapped. "I'm not eating that crap. And I'll eat when I want to eat. Aren't you supposed to bring me a menu and let me order what I want? I wouldn't eat that stuff if you paid me."
The lady was taken aback, and she ran out of the room.
"That'll teach them," I thought. But no one ever came back that day to bring me lunch, and by dinner I was too hungry to risk another tirade.
A couple of days later there was a knock on my door.
"Hello," I said.
"Mr. Stingley, can I please come in?"
"Sure," I said. Then this guy opened the door and walked into the room. He announced that he was the hospital's staff psychiatrist.