The last two months were extremely difficult for Ralph Lettieri Jr. , 26, of East Patchogue, but on Friday he was all smiles, surrounded by his loved ones and colleagues. He said that he was thankful for being alive and credited Nassau University Medical Center's physicians in saving his life.
"It is a great day and I cannot be any happier," Lettieri said. "All the support gave me the motivation to keep moving. I am going home."
Lettieri was released from NUMC on Friday after a two-month stay.
He suffered from Necrotizing Fasciitis, a rare and life-threatening flesh-eating bacteria, and had his leg amputated at NUMC on Aug. 11. NUMC physicians Louis Riina and Paul Scott performed the procedure.
Two months ago, Lettieri saw a rash on his leg that he thought was poison ivy, the rash then turned into a bump on his knee and then one day he realized that he could not walk. On July 22, he was admitted into Brookhaven Memorial Hospital in Patchogue.
Weeks passed and Lettieri's condition rapidly became worse. His family requested that he be transferred to NUMC because it had the resources to treat Lettieri. While at NUMC, Lettieri underwent more than 10 surgeries. Riina said that he knew that he had to amputate Lettieri's leg.
"There was no where to turn and he was dying before our eyes," Riina said. "His lungs and every system in his body had broken down and he was staying alive only because of the medication he was given."
Lettieri's father, Ralph Lettieri, cried as he remembered the night doctors told him about the amputation.
"On a Saturday, they said they were going to take my son's leg on Monday," he said. "My son was going to die. "Without those guys my son would not be here. He can lose his leg, but he would have his life."
Riina said that it was the right decision.
"After the procedure, his kidney immediately started working again," he said.
Lettieri said that he plans to move forward. He will be having a consultation for a prosthetic leg soon and he plans to enjoy his time with his fiance, Victoria, and their 3-year-old son, Jordan.
His family said that they are extremely proud of him.
Lettieri's grandmother, Francesca, celebrated her 82nd birthday on Thursday. She said that her grandson being released was the best gift she could have.
"This was a beautiful birthday," she said. "I want to thank everyone for their prayers."
Lettieri's mother, Karen Vanslyck, said that she will forever be grateful to the NUMC staff.
"You don't walk away from an experience like this without making amazing friendships with the doctors and nurses," she said. "These relationships will last."
Lettieri said that he is ready to go home and continue living.
"After something like this, you get a new lease on life," he said. "I plan to live life to the fullest. God wants me here."