Reid's letter still inspires once-comatose Army Sgt.
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- One of the first things Mike Thomas remembers after he woke up from a 20-day coma was someone handing him a letter.
From Andy Reid.
Thomas, an Army sergeant then based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and a lifelong Eagles fan, was critically injured and nearly killed in the line of duty in Iraq in April of 2010.
“After my first surgery, they didn’t think I was going to make it,” Thomas said. “They told my parents to say their last goodbyes.”
But Thomas did make it, and when he finally regained consciousness in a hospital in Chapel Hill, N.C., this is the message he got from Reid:
“I just wanted to send you a short note to say that I hope you are feeling better soon. We cannot have one of our #1 Eagles fans not feeling well.
“I understand that you have had a rough time of it lately, but that you are a fighter who does not quit. Now that is the type of attitude that I like to see in people. I know that there are probably some tough days but you need to keep on fighting through the tough times with a positive attitude. Prove to yourself that you can overcome the obstacles.
“The Philadelphia Eagles will be cheering for your recovery.”
The letter was dated May 24, 2010 and signed, “Andy Reid.”
“I didn’t think anybody was going to send me a letter,” Thomas said. “So to get one from Andy Reid was beyond outstanding. The Eagles are my favorite thing in the world.”
On Monday afternoon, 26 months later, Thomas was on the sidelines at Lehigh for training camp practice as Reid’s guest for the day.
Thomas, who underwent four brain surgeries and reconstructive plastic surgery, had the time of his life.
“This means everything to me,” Thomas said. “At first, it seemed like I was dreaming. Then I guess I kind of woke up and realized it was real.”
Thomas, 36, had been in the Army for 7 1/2 years when he was nearly killed outside Baghdad.
He doesn’t remember anything about that day.
“But I’ll never forget what Andy Reid did for me,” he said.
And Reid won’t forget what Thomas and so many others have done for him ... and so many others.
“If it wasn’t for guys like him protecting our country, we wouldn’t be out here playing football or doing any of this,” Reid said after practice Monday. “I saw it when I was over in Afghanistan [in the summer of 2010]. Just so many guys who are passionate about the military and passionate about the Eagles.
“Now with Mike, the four brain surgeries and the plastic skull and being in a coma for a month separates him. That’s something special, now. That’s an incredible deal. For him to persevere through and then come out of the coma and be able to function at all, that’s really unbelievable. And you’ve got to give credit to his doctors, too. They put him back together, and he looks great now. It’s a pretty amazing deal.”
Thomas, proudly showing off a Brian Dawkins tattoo on his left arm, was accompanied by his 14-year-old son Kane, who sheepishly admitted he’s a Redskins fan. He’s allowed. He grew up in Fredericksburg, Va.
As for Mike, he’s never lived in Philly, but he’s attended one game a year -- the most expensive ticket he could scrounge up the money for -- for as long as he remembers.
“Ever since I was a little kid, ever since I was old enough to pay attention to football, the Eagles have been my team,” he said. “Ever since Randall Cunningham’s rookie year. And they never stopped being my team.”
Thomas said he still has some challenging days ahead. He had a seizure on the way up to the Lehigh Valley on Sunday, and he said he has trouble remembering the simplest things.
But he said whenever he gets dejected or demoralized, he just looks at that framed letter from Reid, and he’s ready to face whatever happens.
“I look at it every day,” he said. “Any time, I’m having a real tough time, I go in my Eagles room and look around at all my stuff and that letter and I ask myself, ‘Why give up.’ I don’t know why the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles took the time to write that letter, but if he tells me not to give up, I’m not going to give up.”E-mail Reuben Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org