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Calvin Anderson returns to Newton-Wellesley Hospital to thank medical staff who saved his life

After a life-threatening battle with malaria last summer, New England Patriots offensive lineman Calvin Anderson returned to Newton-Wellesley Hospital last Thursday to thank the medical team who saved his life.

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The first time Dr. David Morris met Calvin Anderson, the 6-foot-5 offensive lineman was his patient at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.

Anderson was admitted to the emergency room severely ill with malaria after a philanthropic trip to Nigeria. In his fever dream, Anderson urged his care team to let him leave. He "had to go protect Mac" and "didn't want to disappoint Bill."

Dr. Morris had no idea who "Mac" and "Bill" were at the time, nor that the human he cared for was a member of the New England Patriots. Things started to make more sense once the physician was brought up to speed.

"It was so impressive to see your mental strength in that moment," Dr. Morris reflected Thursday as the two were reunited. "The Patriots are so lucky to have you."

Anderson, as he explained, was also lucky.

Thursday's visit to the hospital was under much different circumstances than his first, as he took the opportunity to visit the doctors, nurses, and medical staffers who helped save his life in July of 2023.

Anderson took photos, signed jerseys, and most importantly, was able to express his sincere gratitude face-to-face.

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"Thank you," Anderson said upon his arrival. "My dad is a physician and I have great respect for the amount of preparation you all put in to be able to take care of me when I was in a situation where I didn't know how I was going to get through to the next day. I'm super grateful. Thank you for being there when I couldn't be there for myself."

Last year, Anderson was supposed to be getting ready for training camp, but his wife Sherée noticed something was off with her husband.

He wasn't feeling well, but wanted to push through to prepare for the football season. Every day, Anderson would do 100 push-ups as a ritual, but when she saw him struggle with even that, she knew he wouldn't get help on his own. She had to take matters into her own hands.

It took convincing, but Sherée and Anderson's father – a doctor back home in Texas – finally got him to get checked out. Only then did Anderson realize how dire his situation was.

"Sherée effectively saved his life because he came in at just the right time," said Dr. Harry Schrager, who specializes in infectious diseases at the hospital.

"His organ systems were stressed and ready to get worse. Malaria moves quickly, especially the malaria found in West Africa, and when someone is young and healthy and hasn't had these types of experiences, they aren't expecting a life-threatening illness. They think it's the flu or a bad diarrhea. His illness presented somewhat atypically, so he owes her quite a bit, and we're fortunate that she had good sense and made the right decision."

Even at the hospital, things got worse before they got better.

One night, Anderson even admitted to his wife that he didn't know if he would make it through the night. With such a significant fever, it was hard to think past how he felt in that moment.

It was also a challenge for the hospital staff to ensure the offensive lineman was consuming enough calories -- not only to recover, but to also return to the football field when it was all said and done.

"It's one thing taking care of the issue at hand – in this case the infection which was quite serious," said Dr. Eleanor Paglia, another member of his care team.

"But then there's this other aspect of caring for the entire person. It didn't even dawn on me initially that for an elite athlete who is in such prime physical shape, the amount of calories and protein he needed was completely different than everyone else I'm taking care of. Once again, Sheree was a great advocate and she called me back to the room and said this had to be fixed. The kitchen wasn't able to accommodate the amount of calories he needed. We had to think out of the box, get nutrition involved, and call on the hospital to ensure he had no restrictions. It was eye-opening."

Sherée added, with a laugh, that "the kitchen thought I was running some kind of scheme."

Almost an entire year later, Anderson is medically cleared and has been a full participant in Organized Team Activities with the Patriots.

Though the Boston area's highly renowned medical care wasn't the reason Anderson signed with the Patriots last offseason, he has a newfound appreciation for the area.

Now, he and Sherée are committed to giving back to the region that helped give Anderson a new lease on life.

"Retrospectively, I'm so grateful that we have the quality of care we're able to get here," Anderson said.

"I certainly did not consider that I would be enduring some of the things I endured last year when I signed here, but I'm very grateful that I'm here. My wife and I have invested in this area, we've invested in New England with our off-the-field pursuits so we're so grateful and happy to be here and grateful for this staff. I'm really grateful they could bring me from where I was back to feeling good again."

Newton Wellesley Hospital is a member of Mass General Brigham and Mass General Brigham is honored to be the Official Hospital and Sports Medicine Provider of the New England Patriots.

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