Once Mike Patterson regained consciousness in the ambulance, the first thing he wanted to do was rip out the intravenous tube from his arm. In a small fit of panic, he looked at Eagles assistant trainer Chris Peduzzi, who was sitting next to him on the way to Lehigh Valley Hospital.
"I was like, 'What am I doing here?' " he recalled about that frightful day two years ago. "I was ready to take out the IV. I said to Chris, 'We've got practice. I've got to get back on the field.' I was ready to get back on the field right then and there.'"
Less than an hour earlier, Patterson collapsed in the searing heat and humidity of practice at the Eagles' Lehigh University training camp field. Teammates quickly summoned the training staff and the unconscious defensive tackle was strapped to a backboard and placed in an ambulance.
Patterson, 29, now with the Giants after being released by the Eagles in the offseason, had no idea what happened until Peduzzi told him he had a seizure. Tests revealed it was caused by a rare congenital condition called arteriovenous malformation, commonly referred to as AVM.
According to the American Heart Association, an AVM, which affects less than 1 percent of the general population, occurs when a tangle of blood vessels in the brain bypasses normal brain tissue and instead diverts blood from the arteries to the veins.
Patterson now believes it was a blessing he had been able to get immediate medical treatment for a problem that could have led to much more serious consequences, including a stroke, permanent brain damage or even death. He was given medication and eventually was cleared to return to the field.
The perspective he gained was invaluable; playing football seemed far more inconsequential than simply being alive.
"God had his hand on me," he said. "I don't know the reason, but I'll find out one day. I feel blessed that I'm able to be out here."
There's no guarantee Patterson will earn a roster spot on a team crowded at defensive tackle. But the former first-round pick is hopeful. If it doesn't work out with the Giants, he'll be open to finding another opportunity. But through it all, Patterson never takes his chance for granted. After all, he's alive.
"It changes you a lot, most definitely," he said. "You don't have any recognition when you go through a seizure and with what's going on. But just coming back and playing through it, working out and being back into the game and stuff like that, it brings out a lot in you."
Patterson played the entire 2011 season without incident after recovering from the seizure, but subsequent tests revealed the need for surgery. In January 2012, doctors removed a piece of his skull and a tangle of veins that caused the initial problem. Patterson's hair covers an eight-inch scar.
"They pulled back the skin, took out a piece of my skull, and put a plate in right here behind my right eye," Patterson said, pointing to his forehead. "They explained that they pretty much took out."
Patterson said he had another seizure at his home a few weeks after the surgery. Doctors determined that he had not taken his medication properly. He said he has not had any problems since. Giants doctors took a brain scan and cleared Patterson before he was signed.
He will need to take medication for the rest of his career, but will be weaned off it once his playing days are over.
"This game doesn't last forever, so you have to make it last as long as you can," Patterson said. "I still feel like I can play. I still want to play."
Good man. Good story. The kind of player you want to root for. Here's to Patterson making the most of his second chance at football -- and at life.