EAST PATCHOGUE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A volunteer firefighter from Long Island was released from the hospital Friday after being treated for a rare, life-threatening flesh-eating bacteria.
Ralph Lettieri of East Patchogue said he was thrilled to be going home after being hospitalized for months at Nassau University Medical Center.
1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reports
“I can’t wait to just be with my son, my fiancée and just continue my life,” Lettieri said. “It’s a great day, I couldn’t be any happier. I waited for this day for the longest time.”
Lettieri said he had poison ivy sores on his body when he went scuba diving in a freshwater pond in Suffolk County in early July. Doctors believe that is how he acquired the bacterial infection, known as necrotizing fasciitis.
Shortly after the trip, the 26-year-old noticed a strange bump on his left knee and it quickly spread. Within days, he was in a coma.
“He was as close to death as a human being could be,” said Dr. Louis Riina of Nassau University Medical Center. “He was one of the most ill patients I ever took care of.”
On Aug. 11, doctors amputated his left leg and Lettieri has had nearly half a dozen other surgeries since.
“My son was gonna die. I’ve been around the medical field a long time and I told them you can have his leg but you better save his life … and he did,” Lettieri’s father, Ralph Sr., told CBS 2′s Carolyn Gusoff.
Lettieri said thinking about his 3-year-old son kept him going.
“I knew I couldn’t give up, I had to fight through the pain,” Lettieri said. “Being so close to death and given a second chance — God wants me here.”
He’s expected to have months of physical therapy.
Letteri will soon be fitted with a prosthetic leg and said he plans to pick up where he left off — as a father and as a firefighter focused once again on saving other people.
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