Scott Fogarty looked down at his leg, where his left foot used to be.
A Nike tennis shoe was being held in place with titanium and fiberglass.
Scott is no longer self-conscious about the prosthesis. Even on rainy days, when he might step in a puddle, he keeps everything sunny side up.
After all, he is alive. He is a blessed man. He will earn his degree in respiratory therapy at Macon State next year, the same year he turns 50.
People notice his artificial leg, especially during the warm months when he wears shorts. Often, they are curious and will ask him about it. A few weeks ago, a Macon State student told him she admired his attitude. Obviously, youre not sensitive about your leg, she said.
Sometimes they assume he is a veteran who lost his leg in combat. They thank him for his service to our country. He is quick to tell them he is not a wounded warrior.
It has been a battle, though.
The past 10 months have been filled with physical trials and mental anguish. The amputation, a few inches below his knee, was the result of the same flesh-eating bacteria that has run rampant in the news.
He was fitted for his artificial leg about six weeks ago. Before that, he hobbled around on crutches and used a walker.
When he finally received his prosthesis, he decided to jazz it up. He was not about to settle for an ordinary leg.
Its like having a tattoo, he said, without having a tattoo.
He selected a pirate theme, right down to the skull and crossbones. It was a design by Guy Harvey, a well-known marine wildlife artist.
Scott may have grown up in landlocked Macon, but he has always been a bit of a buccaneer at heart. He loves the high seas. His youngest son even played high school football for the Pike County Pirates.
And a true-blue pirate, he said, laughing, doesnt have a leg.
He is a fan of singer Jimmy Buffett. He has attended his concerts and especially loves the song, A Pirate Looks at Forty.
Scott is 49 years old.
A pirate looks at 49.
Every day, I try to see the positive, he said. There have been a lot of hurdles. Sometimes I get emotional about it. But I know God has a plan for me.
He graduated from Southwest High School in 1981. He went to Macon State (then Macon Junior College) for two years and married his wife, Angel, in 1983.
They live in Zebulon and have two sons -- Mitch, 22, and Chandler, 18, who are both students at West Georgia College in Carrollton. In fact, the whole family is in college. Scott will finish his degree at Macon State in December 2013. Angel is enrolled in the nursing program at Gordon College in Barnesville.
Scott was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, a severe bacterial infection that releases toxins that can destroy a persons skin, muscles and tissue. His struggle received limited attention compared to other more high-profile cases in Georgia.
College student Aimee Copeland has made national headlines with her story. She returned to her home in Snellville earlier this week, four months after developing a flesh-eating infection following a zip-lining accident on the Tallapoosa River. Doctors had to amputate both hands, her leg and right foot.
Lana Kuykendall, a 36-year-old woman from South Carolina, was diagnosed with a flesh-eating bacterial infection after giving birth to twins in May. She has endured more than 20 surgeries. Paul Bales sustained a cut while removing a section of a dock at Lake Sinclair in Milledgeville and had to have his leg amputated. Bobby Vaughn, a landscaper from Cartersville, was diagnosed with necrotizing fascilitis after cutting his leg while trimming weeds and has undergone numerous surgeries.
Scott can trace the roots of his infection to the week before last Thanksgiving, when he stepped off a curb in a parking lot and felt a sharp pain in his foot. He thought it might be a sprained ankle.
The pain came and went until Thanksgiving Day, when it became constant. He couldnt put any pressure on his left foot.
The weekend brought a procession of doctors, clinics and hospitals. He was checked for cuts and spider bites. He was treated with antibiotics and scheduled for X-rays and MRIs.
By Dec. 12, his doctors had no choice. His left leg was amputated below the knee at Upson Regional Hospital in Thomaston.
Along the way, the medical personnel were impressed with his upbeat attitude.
I knew having a pity party wasnt going to bring back my leg, he said.
He carried his optimism with him to rehabilitation at Warm Springs. He finished his rehab in an impressive three days, and then went home.
Besides being a full-time student, he started a part-time job at an auto parts store in Forsyth last week. Angel works in the seafood department at the Ingles grocery store in Barnesville. Scott had only limited medical coverage through a student insurance plan at Macon State. So the medical expenses have piled up.
A fundraiser has been organized for Scott and his family on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Mickey Fuller Lodge on Gralan Drive in Byron. Smoked Boston butts will be sold in advance for $30. There will also be a silent auction. (For more information, call Tammy Singleton at 478-335-5866.)
A staff member at Warm Springs encouraged Scott to apply for a job as a respiratory therapist there after he graduates next year.
I could work with amputees and people who have had strokes, he said. I could show them my leg and tell them its not the end.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or email@example.com.