Man who survived flesh-eating disease returns home

September 28, 2012 2:24:29 PM PDT
It was like a hero's welcome home at the Hagerman Fire Department.

26-year-old Ralphie Lettieri feels like he has a new lease on life.

It was two months ago that the volunteer firefighter contracted a flesh eating bacteria after he went diving in a quarry.

"He was one of the most ill patients I ever took care of, he was the closest to death as a human being could be," said Dr. Louis Riina of the Nassau University Medical Center.

Surgeons were forced to amputate Lettieri's left leg.

He spoke exclusively with Eyewitness News on Thursday at the hospital, and gave an inside look at his fight for survival.

"I feel like I'm a miracle," Lettieri said.

On Friday, he got the acknowledgment when he was finally released from Nassau University Medical Center. His father gave an emotional thank you to surgeon Paul Scott.

"My son was going to die, and I told him, 'you could have his leg', but he had to save his life and he did," said Ralphie's father, Ralph.

Now, Lettieri gets to spend his life with his two-year-old son, Jordan.

"He kept me going everyday knowing that I would get to see him," Lettieri added.

On Tuesday, Lettieri will begin the process of getting a prosthetic leg. He'll actually have two - one that he can use all the time, and one that will withstand high levels of heat so he can continue to work at the fire department.

You can help Ralphie Lettieri with his medical costs by making a donation to:

The Help Ralphie Fund
c/o A. Citarella, Chief
510 Oakdale Avenue
East Patchogue, NY 11772

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