Senior writer Michael Silver reports on a near tragedy in the
life of Jerry Rice, who discussed publicly for the first time
his wife's recent brush with death.
As one of the most dedicated athletes to wear a football
uniform, Jerry Rice always figured he was the master of his
fate. The San Francisco 49ers receiver would devote himself to
his craft, and the rest of his life would fall into place. That
all changed when his wife, Jackie, gave birth to the couple's
third child, a daughter named Jada.
Jackie's previous deliveries, of daughter Jaqui, 9, and son
Jerry Jr., 4, had gone smoothly. But after giving birth at 2:58
p.m. on May 16 to Jada, who was healthy, Jackie began
experiencing complications and required surgery to stop
hemorrhaging. "It was supposed to be minor surgery," Jerry says.
"They brought her out, and we waited around to see if the
bleeding would continue, and it started up again. Then they took
her back into surgery from 9 to 11:30 p.m., and that's when I
knew it was really serious."
He sent Jackie's mother, Gloria Campbell, back to the couple's
home and paced the hospital alone until daybreak, giving his
mother-in-law frequent telephone updates. He was never told by
doctors how close Jackie was to dying, but he figured it out for
July 7, 1996
"I could tell by the way the doctors and nurses were frantically
running around that it was just really close," Rice says. "I
went through a living hell, because I was there every second."
In an interview three weeks before the delivery, Rice had talked
passionately about his wife as the backbone of the family. "She
makes everything go," he had said.
Jackie was in critical condition for 10 days, and Rice spent the
entire time in the hospital, catching sleep in spare rooms. And
though Jerry has resumed his off-season workouts and
Jackie--who's expected to make a full recovery--is at home,
their lives have been irrevocably altered.
"I haven't slept well since then, and I don't know when I will,"
says Rice. "You have a day where you feel good at the beginning,
but it's always in the back of your mind. The thought had never
crossed my mind that I wouldn't wake up the next day or that my
loved ones could be taken from me. Football was always Number 1,
but after this happened to my wife, not now."