NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A firefighter on Long Island is in the fight of his life as doctors race against the clock to save Ralph Lettieri’s leg from flesh-eating bacteria.
The Lettieri family told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan on Wednesday that they are desperately looking for help from anybody who may be able to stop the bacteria from spreading.
“It’s a nightmare, so if the doctors are out there, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone if you have an idea,” said his father, Ralph Sr.
The rare and dangerous bacteria began eating away at Ralph Jr., a volunteer firefighter at the Hagermane Fire Department in East Patchogue and construction worker, in mid-July.
“He has a flesh-eating disease. We are just trying to get him more help. Brookhaven has done everything to save his life. We just need more,” said his fiancée, Vickie Vasquez.
Overcome with emotion, Lettieri’s family has watched him undergo six surgeries in three days as more and more of his flesh and skin was removed.
Lettieri has been placed into a medically induced coma and was transferred from Brookhaven to Nassau University Medical Center, where the staff has put him in a hyperbaric chamber to try to control his double pneumonia.
In the meantime, his firefighter brethren said they are praying for the stricken lieutenant.
“It was kinda shocking to all of us. One day here, the next day in the hospital,” Chief Anthony Citarella said.
Lettieri’s family told CBS 2 that they believe he acquired the disease after diving into a lake with an exposed wound. Antibiotics did nothing, and an infection known as Necrotizing Fascitis set in.
“It destroys and kills tissue. The bacteria consumes the tissues that are present,” explained Dr. Louis Riina of Nassau University Medical Center.
Lettieri’s hyperbaric chamber is being flooded with oxygen, which works to kill the flesh-eating disease. His family remains at his bedside as his colleagues organize prayer vigils and fundraisers.
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