National Grateful Patient Day on September 7 gives patients an opportunity to show appreciation for hard-working professionals in the medical industry as well as families and caregivers of anyone receiving life-giving medical care. The mission is to unite thankful patients with the community that cared for them – from their nurses and doctors to their supportive loved ones and the companies who created their life-saving therapies. "That date marks the anniversary of my first day back playing in the NFL after my illness," Rolf told The Huffington Post.
His patient journey began when he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the beginning of his second season playing in the NFL. "I continued to play as my condition worsened until I collapsed on a team flight home after playing the New England Patriots midway through the following season," he said. Once the plane landed, he was taken to the hospital for emergency surgery. "I would endure a second abdominal surgery a few days later, wake up with two ostomy bags on my side, 65 pounds below my playing weight, and spend the next six weeks in the ICU battling sepsis and fighting for my life." Remarkably, Rolf returned to play seven more seasons in the NFL (four of those with an ostomy) and became the 20th player inducted into the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame.
There are so many people I am grateful for, starting with my parents who were there every step of the way. I had phenomenal doctors, nurses, and teammates. Our team strength coach, Phil Tyne, never gave up on me, even when I gave up on myself countless times. I also can’t forget the thousands of Charger fans who donated blood for me, sent me cards and letters, and prayed for me. – Rolf Benirschke