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Continued: June 10, 2007 article: "Thank you, Vikings fans"

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG
  • Last update: October 28, 2009 - 5:51 PM

"OT asked a lot about Cris Carter, and I talked to Cris afterward and we're going to go see OT this month," Reed said. "Cris hasn't seen him in a while. It's tougher on some guys. It kind of overwhelms them. They hear that OT is sick, but they don't have experience with how terrible Lou Gehrig's Disease is. They're thinking, `This is big, strong OT. He's young. He can't be that sick.' But this disease doesn't care who you are, how much money you made or how famous you are."

`She's Orlando's Angel'

Demetra said that through it all, Orlando has never asked, "Why me?" In fact, she said the entire family "feels blessed." The couple has a 13-year-old daughter, Philamisha Davis, who is Demetra's from a previous relationship; a 10-year-old daughter, Alexis Thomas, who is Orlando's from a previous relationship; and their 6-year-old son, Orlando Jr.

"With the love that exists in our family, the kids don't see Orlando like other people see him now," Demetra said. "They see their dad. They see someone who loves them. They see someone who smiles when they walk in the room. They see someone who never complains. 

"Our son said to me, `Mom, Dad's going to walk again.' It's not false hope. They are well aware of the disease and the diagnosis. But we have instilled in them that there is a God. They understand faith, so they don't see us as any different than any other family going through life's journey."

It was fate that led Orlando and Demetra to each other. As they waited for their cars to be washed back on Sept. 12, 1997, Orlando, of course, started a conversation with the beautiful young woman sitting across from him. Demetra didn't know he was a Vikings player. But she knew he had an injury, and she had a job selling natural herbs, so maybe - even back then - she could help him.

"Our cars were done," Demetra said, "but we sat there for another three hours talking."

Demetra refused to go out with Orlando a couple of times, telling him she had just ended a bad relationship. But Orlando was persistent. By their third conversation, he told Demetra that she was the woman he would marry. She agreed to go out with him.

"A couple months later, he tells me, `I'm getting married,'" Reed said. "And I'm like, `What? Already?' But, you know, she's Orlando's angel. I left their house May 27 and I turned to my wife and said, `Baby, if I ever get sick, that's how I want you to take care of me.' That's some serious love."

Time in front of the TV

Thomas sleeps until 10 each morning. Demetra said there's a split second every morning when Orlando opens his eyes that he forgets he has ALS. But he adjusts quickly because he has a list of television programs he wants to watch.

"Dallas" starts at 10. Court TV is from noon until 2 p.m. "Dr. Phil" is followed by Oprah, then over to ESPN, back to the local news and on to "Wheel of Fortune." Then, depending on the day or season, it's "American Idol," "America's Next Top Model," or another popular prime-time show.

Reed said although it's tough initially to see Orlando in such a weakened state, he said the old "OT spirit" still shines through.    "I live in Dallas and my wife's from Louisiana, and we drive right past Orlando's exit when we go back and forth visiting," Reed said. "It gets tougher and tougher each time to see him, but I care about him so much, I can't help but stop and show my love for him. We decided the next time, my wife and I are staying overnight so all of us can sit up and tell stories about Minnesota and laugh all night."

Demetra has seen the look of shock on many a visitor's face as they have arrived over the past several months. But, so far, she also sees a completely different look when they leave.

"If you were to come to our house, you would see God's presence," Demetra said. "Whether you live in a cardboard box or on top of a hill, it doesn't matter as long as you have that in your home. People who come and spend time with Orlando leave with something from him they didn't expect."

Perhaps it's a sense that in their own lives, every day really is a holiday.
 

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