A Florida man is speaking out after a three-day-long ordeal in which he lost his arm in an alligator attack and then got lost in a swamp.
On July 17, Eric Merda was swimming across Lake Manatee when an almost-seven-foot-long alligator bit and severed his arm, according to local station WFLA News Channel 8.
"I looked over and there was a gator and I went to swim, like Olympic-style swim, and she grab my arm from the outside," the 43-year-old told the station.
The Sarasota man tried to seek help, but then realized he was lost and wandered for three days— in severe agony.
"With a bone poking out and a lot of pain, the whole three days I was screaming at the top of my lungs," he said.
Merda was eventually airlifted to a hospital where doctors amputated his arm, according to the station.
Upon reflection of his harrowing experience, Merda said he wants to become a motivational speaker.
"I came out the swamp, naked, with one arm," he said. "I was reborn for a reason, and I believe that is to motivate people."
One day after Merda was rescued, Florida Fish and Wildlife told the outlet that a contractor had removed two alligators from the artificial reservoir — a six-foot and a nine-foot alligator.
The wildlife agency says 22 alligator-bite incidents have been reported this year.
Last month a Brandon man was swimming in Lake Thonotosassa when an alligator bit him on the face, according to a statement from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) obtained by PEOPLE.
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In May, 47-year-old Thomas McGuinness died after he was injured by an alligator while at Taylor Lake in Largo.
At least three people have died in alligator attacks in 2022 alone, including two people in Florida.