I’ve gotten a lot of emails and messages from folks (you know who you are) who’ve asked when are you going to update your site or how is Donald doing? I am so, so sorry it’s been so long to either update my blog or update Donald’s condition. As you can imagine my schedule has been “nuts” since I last posted an update here and I promise it won’t be another almost 8 months in doing so in the future.
First and foremost, in regard to the health of my son Donald. If you want to know and not deal with the details, scroll down to the bold text below. For details read on from here.
As many of you know Donald was diagnosed with Severe Aplastic Anemia in December, only 5 days after he graduated from Savannah State University in Georgia with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Biology. In those 5 days we went from the highs of life(college graduation) to a low (being diagnosed with a rare blood disorder). He was initially treated in Savannah and then recommended by his doctor for further treatment at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. His first round of treatments at NIH was for 10 days (New Year’s Eve in Bethesda), after which he was in and out of hospitals for various infections that he picked up along the way just trying to live his life. With his treatment, his immune level was almost at zero most times so he was really vulnerable to catch almost any germ to bring on an infection and make his fever start to rise. Once he noticed he had a fever he had about 6 hours to get to a hospital to receive medication intravenously to bring the fever down. Otherwise, the results could be out of the doctors hands. So, early on in his recovery, it wasn’t the Aplastic Anemia that concerned me, it was the possible complications that came with recovery. Every time I received a phone call and knew it was Donald I held my breath until I knew he was okay and had not been just admitted to a hospital somewhere because of a fever.
When Donald and I visited NIH for his 3 month follow-up visit there was a sense that the doctors were not pleased with his recovery. They indicated that they wanted to give his initial medication some additional time to boost the bone marrow to get back into the business of making the blood supply Donald needed. We gave that treatment additional time but he continued to pick-up infections and continued to need blood and platelet transfusions on a weekly basis. When we met in Bethesda for Donald’s 6 month followup examination in late June we got a sense very early that the doctors were very concerned with his recovery. It was at this point that we knew that the first round of treatment had failed. We knew that a second round of treatment was warranted, the only question was when to do it? Donald was looking at being my presenter at the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and then possibly heading to Graduate School so there was a brief thought of putting the treatment off until after the HOF Induction. But we looked at one another and I think we came to the same conclusion at the same time, there was no better time than the present to do it. We knew that it was best to go ahead and get it behind us in order to move forward. What initially started as a one day trip was turning out to be an extended visit (Fourth of July in Bethesda). It was at this time (if you remember Donald’s HOF speech) that I drove to Savannah to get his clothing (after all he’s 6’4, wow!) and to feed his $2 WalMart fish.
During Donald’s treatment (with rabbit serum) he experienced numerous serious side effects but eventually his body adjusted to the medication. After about a 10 day stay at NIH we were able to leave for home, but again the major concern was not the condition but the complication that could arise with Donald just trying to live his life. He took special care to avoid being in contact with people who had colds or any other kind of infection by isolating himself, wearing his surgical mask whenever he was outside of his apartment and he always carried a bottle of Purell to help keep his hands germ free after he touched something. He continued to see his doctor in Savannah but was getting restless to get on with his life. I was proud that he independently made the decision to move from Savannah to Hampton Virginia where he was accepted into the Graduate Medical Master’s Program. Personally, I wanted him to hold still and wait for the medication to kick in but more importantly I wanted him to be in a situation where the doctors and medical staff at his hospital were aware of his condition. If Donald needed to go to a hospital, he didn’t have time to sit in an emergency room and fill out papers and wait to see the next doctor available. He needed to get his medication as soon as possible! Regardless of how I felt, Donald wanted to live his life so he proceeded to make his move which was probably the best thing for him.
We met with his team of doctors at NIH again for his 3 month followup on the second round of treatments. This time the tone of the examination was much better than earlier in the year. The doctors were happy, pleased and quite satisfied with his recovery. Donald’s white blood cell counts were increasing and he was not in need of the blood and platelet transfusions that he needed before.
I’m so happy to say that Donald is progressing very well and is doing great! He still has a ways to go before he gets a clean bill of health and he still has to take precautions about the way he lives his life on a daily basis but all in all things have gotten back to “normal” for him. I want to send out “Thanks” to all of you around the world who sent cards, letters and prayers to him and our family! Your gestures of kindness were truly appreciated! I’ve also come to understand that Donald is smarter than his father and has more faith in his recovery than anyone else including “Dad”.
Now in regard to Donald’s “Old Man” Harry, as I mentioned before the schedule has been “heavy”. In some ways my election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame has been much like after winning Super Bowl XXI. Many requests for interviews and appearances on a wide range of issues and topics that didn’t necessarily relate to the Hall of Fame but more so because of the name recognition. My world is starting to settle down now and that’s by design because I’m saying “no” more often to the many requests and I’m taking back control of my time.
I will write more about the Hall of Fame experience later but as a result of my being inducted I wanted to share the honor with as many of my teammates as possible who weren’t able to come to Canton, Ohio for the induction ceremony. Since the festivities in Canton, I’ve had 3 dinners or receptions for the players I played with and the coaches I played for in high school, while at South Carolina State University and with the NY Giants. These events were special because each one gave me and each group an opportunity to reunite for a good cause and reminisce. For me on a more personal level, it gave me an opportunity to look each guy in the eyes to tell them from my heart how much I appreciated them, how much they inspired me as a player and person and how honored I was to represent them both on and off the football field. I know it might be “corny” to some who read this and I’m about to “put this to bed” for the last time but the Hall of Fame recognition is more about them than me. This might seems strange to some who’ve never played the game. But for those who have, you know exactly what I mean. It’s never ever about one individual, it’s always about the team!