Ortega tried – with the little English he knows – to tell the world he's not ready to turn his back on life.
"In this moment, I feel very, very, very good," the 34-year-old Dominican said. "And never give up, man!"
Ortega was the last of three construction workers to be pulled out of a structural collapse at the old Edison Power Plant in South Boston on May 4.
He said crews were cleaning up the work site when a mezzanine floor fell from one of the ends, crushing both of his legs. Ortega was trapped for four hours, conscious the entire time first responders tried to rescue him.
The pain was such that he yelled and pleaded to a foreman named Fray to end his life. His coworkers helped calm him down. He knew by then his legs were gone.
"When they pulled me out, I still had my legs attached," he said in Spanish.
Ortega doesn't remember being taken to the hospital. Once he came to, doctors had already amputated them.
His father, Jose, flew into Boston upon finding out what happened.
"I thought that my world had come to an end," he said in Spanish. "Everyone in the family couldn't stop crying. It was as if they were mourning his death."
Ortega's father hopes the company his son works for will help him get back on track.
"We have been working closely with Mr. Ortega's employer, Northstar, to offer support and assistance to him and his family," Suffolk Construction, which runs the Summer Street project, said in a statement. "We also continue to work with OSHA, our trade partners and local authorities to determine the cause of the accident."
Thinking of his mother and his 6-year-old son – plus his faith in God – helped Ortega pull through, he said. It is that same strength his father said gives the family the peace of mind that things will be alright.
"At least it was only my legs," said Ortega. "I am well, I'm calm and in peace, and my two other coworkers are also doing well. The important thing is to be alive."
Ortega will be released from the hospital on Friday and moved to a physical rehab center, where he will get a set of prosthetic legs and begin to learn to adjust to his new reality.
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