Three months after he was shot in the back at a bar in his native Dominican Republic, Boston Red Sox legend David Ortiz made his first public comments to an English-language publication Saturday.
Speaking with The Boston Globe’s Bob Hohler at Fenway Park, Ortiz first described what it felt like to get shot and face death.
“I felt a burning sensation,” Ortiz said. “I felt weird, like not myself, as I went down.
“People need to understand, this isn’t a movie where you get shot in the street and you’re back two minutes later... No, I got shot and almost died. I only have one life to live. I can’t just go to the pharmacy and buy another one.”
Ortiz, 43, said he never fell unconscious, and was alert enough to realize he had been shot, but couldn’t look to see how bad it was.
“I didn’t want to look at it, to be honest,” he said. “I don’t even remember how much I bled.”
What he does remember is when the pain set in: while being prepped for surgery and waiting for surgical staff to arrive at the clinic he was taken to.
And when he went into surgery, Ortiz had a message for his doctors.
“Please don’t let me die. I have four children. I want to be with them.”
Ortiz was flown to Massachusetts General Hospital the next morning, but before he left, he spoke with Dominican Attorney General Jean Alain Rodriguez about the shooting. That interview was his only one with law enforcement about the incident, Hohler reported.
Ortiz went into surgery again in Boston. His surgeon there said the Dominican team did “a hell of a job,” according to Ortiz.
Ortiz started ‘losing hope’ after contracting life-threatening infection
Three weeks after that surgery, Ortiz came down with a life-threatening acute bacterial infection that affected his digestive system. He had a fever that caused chills Ortiz compared to that of when he had hypothermia as a child, Hohler wrote.
“It was very dangerous,” Ortiz said. “I got to the point that I started losing hope.”
He underwent an urgent surgery, after which he was only fed through tubes and IV lines for seven weeks. Ortiz could only swallow ice chips and lost 40 pounds in that time period.
“I had nightmares all the time about being in the desert, looking for water.” Ortiz said. “I would wake up with my mouth dry and feeling like I’m going to die.”
After doctors told him he would survive, Ortiz said he prepared “for the possibility that he would be permanently debilitated.”
“I felt that if I didn’t die, then I would never be the same again,” he said. “I went through hell with that.”
Ortiz reached a turning point, is determined to find who targeted him
But one day, Ortiz said he awoke “from a nightmare” to see his sister praying for help by his bedside: “She was arguing for God, asking for help ... It hit me hard.” He now sees that day as a turning point in his recovery — shortly after, he kept down food again and could speak to his family without struggling.
He returned to his own home in Boston a month after the third surgery, and friends from around the league began to visit and call. Ortiz expects to be fully physically recovered by Thanksgiving and will leave “soon” to return to his role as a Fox Sports analyst in Los Angeles for the MLB playoffs.
Ortiz’s attention, however, did eventually turn to figuring out why he was shot. Authorities announced a few days after the shooting that a then-unidentified man, with an undisclosed motive, placed a $7,800 bounty on his life. Six suspects were arrested, and Ortiz says he didn’t recognize any of them.
“I don’t know why I was involved in something like this because I’m not the type of person who looks for trouble or causes trouble. All I worry about is trying to help people, about trying to do the right thing.
“You gotta pay a lot more than that to get me killed,” he even joked. “I ain’t that cheap.”
Another eight men were arrested in the investigation, but Ortiz similarly did not recognize any of them. He also dismissed a rumor that he had been chased off the road while driving prior to the shooting.
“If that ever happened to me, the first person I would call would be the president of the Dominican Republic,” Ortiz said. “I know he would do something about it. That’s how close we are.”
Ortiz hired former Boston police commissioner Ed Davis to investigate further last month, but he hasn’t discovered anything new. Nonetheless, Ortiz remains determined to find out who harmed him.
“I want to find out who did this,” Ortiz said. “I’m not going to sit around and chill if there’s somebody out there who wants to kill me.”
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