HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - "I hope nobody else gets this stuff," Ronald "Griz" Winnert said in a video provided by his daughter, Brandy Miller. "You go fishing one day and you get this."
The well-known Bay St. Louis mechanic and part-time Santa Claus recently became Mississippi's first confirmed case of vi brio vulnificus in 2016.
"We did not know if he was going to make it. The doctors did not know if he was going to make it," Miller said. "Thankfully and miraculously, he did. But that was the worst week I have ever had."
Winnert was fishing for redfish at his favorite spot near the Silver Slipper casino on June 10 when water splashed on his pants; seeping through a bandaged cut. Three hours later, the fisherman was in excruciating pain.
"Within 24 hours, he had lost his leg," Miller said. "It went that fast."
Miller says the vi brio infection created septic shock, heart failure, kidney failure and pneumonia. Her father's right leg was amputated below the knee.
Although Winnert may be released from the hospital within a week, it will be about another four weeks before he can get fitted for a prosthetic. His goal: being able to walk within a year.
"This is a man who was huge and strong and lifting cars for fun, and this was his deal; his name is Griz," Miller said. "This is what he's known by and now he's having to learn how to get around, and that's pretty hard. But he's strong."
Both Miller and her Dad have chosen to channel their feelings to help others. Miller says warning posted online simply aren't enough to get the word out about the bacteria.
"Find out what the warnings are. If you're diabetic, don't go into the water. If you're immuno suppressed, don't go in the water. If you have liver impairment, don't go in the water. It's not worth it."
Miller said warnings on the web are good, but not enough.
"You need to get it out to people in a way that they're going to see it," Miller said. "You need to have signs on the beach. You need to have information that can be understood."
Brian Carpenter agrees that warnings are necessary, but fishing is his life.
"I've got health problems myself, and I'm scared of the water myself....we like to throw nets and stuff and we put the net in our mouth," said Carpenter. "I'm worried about that. People need to know. This is their life we're talking about."