NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A volunteer firefighter who lost both his hands and feet from a case of the flu is finally getting released from the hospital.
Will McCue, 19, left Montefiore Medical Center like a hero Wednesday, smiling shyly to a crowd of teary-eyed nurses, friends and firefighters. Wearing his New City Fire cap, he waved – a reminder of how much he lost in the agonizing four-month battle for his life.
“There’s a reason for it. There’s something in my son’s future. He was meant to live,” his father, William McCue Sr., told CBS2’s Ali Bauman.
McCue — a varsity athlete turned volunteer firefighter and college freshman with aspirations of one day joining the FDNY — started feeling sick toward the end of January amid one of the worst flu seasons to hit the Tri-State area in years.
Within days he was hospitalized first with influenza, next pneumonia and then sepsis, a series New City Fire Chief John Latancio described to CBS2 as “a domino effect.”
As McCue’s body fought to sustain his vital organs, his extremities shut down. Doctors had to amputate both of his hands and both of his feet.
“He was minute-by-minute. They didn’t think he was going to make it,” his dad said. “To watch your kid go through something where he’s suffering a lot and going through a lot of surgeries, it’s very hard.”
“It’s hard to see a 19-year-old just have everything taken away from him pretty much at that moment,” said Latancio.
In a video released by the New City Fire Department, McCue spoke out for the first time.
“Hi, my name is William McCue, just want to say thanks to all the departments,” he said. “They are giving me support through my time in the hospital.”
McCue spent months in various hospitals after getting hit by influenza.
“I appreciate all the fundraising that’s been done for me, and I just want to say thanks, so thank you,” he said.
When his fellow firefighters visited McCue in the intensive care unit to name him an honorary lifetime member, they were struck by the teen’s dogged positivity.
“He didn’t miss any drills from the time he got in May to the time he got sick,” NCFD Chief Richard Willows said.
The GoFundMe fundraiser has raised more than $105,000 to help McCue and his family in his recovery.
“What’s ahead for him and our goal is to get him back on those fire trucks and get him up and about,” said Willows.
“He’s the bravest person I know,” his dad said. “I believe he’s going to make the most of his life. He will.”
“Nothing can break that kid. He’s just been through it all and he’s just the strongest kid I know, by far,” said childhood friend Ryan Donnelly.
“He just wants to live life now, you know,” childhood friend Gianna Lia said.
McCue will be fitted for prosthetic hands and feet at Helen Hayes and intends to start physical therapy right away, with a goal of one day serving with a fire department again in the future.