A Southwest Florida man believes he lost his leg due to increased bacteria on Fort Myers Beach.
Zachary Motal is adjusting to his new life; which now includes him putting on his prosthetic leg each morning. He's one of many who believe they fell ill after visiting a Southwest Florida beach.
"I am a little nervous to be next to this water after what happened to me a year ago," said Matol. "Right about this time last year is when I got released from the hospital as a matter of fact."
His right leg had to be amputated last April. He says he was walking along Fort Myers Beach when water entered a small scratch on his foot. 24 hours later, he says he was rushed into surgery for a bacterial infection called vibrio vulnificus which can cause a skin infection.
The Florida Department of Health (DOH) says the bacteria naturally occurs in warm salt or brackish water. Infections are rare, but exposures occur more commonly during the summer months from May to October. Officials say people with open wounds, or weakened immune systems are at a higher risk. DOH does not test for the bacteria because of its natural occurrence in salt and brackish waters.
"Don't go in the water with a cut," said Matol, as he read from the DOH statement. "So who is supposed to tell you when the water is bad. Is it up to you to test that water before you get into it or let your family members get into it. Was I supposed to carry a test kit that day to walk into the water," he added.
Since 2014, there have been 3 confirmed cases of vibrio vulnificus in Lee County; two cases ended in death.
Matol who feels his infection was caused by Lake Okeechobee discharges says he'll keep fighting for answers to whether our waters are truly safe for swimming.
"I won't give up, I won't stop fighting either," said Matol.