MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — A Sarasota man is re-adjusting to his life with only one arm after he was attacked by an alligator while swimming in Lake Manatee in July.

Eric Merda, 43, said he was reborn on July 17 when he lost his right arm to the gator. Now, he has a new calling in life.

“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,” Merda said.

The nearly seven-foot gator tore off Merda’s right arm. He spent the next three days lost in the swamp.

“With a bone poking out a lot of pain the whole three days I was screaming at the top of my lungs,” he recalled.

He found his way out and was airlifted to the hospital where doctors amputated what was left of the arm.

“There’s no way that this is real,” he remembered thinking. “My arm is gone. I don’t have an arm anymore. There’s no way. I have to be dreaming or something.”

Merda said he was given the opportunity to live and he had a choice to make.

“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.”

Merda plans to use his second chance to become a motivational speaker.

Florida Fish and Wildlife said a day after Merda was found, a contracted nuisance alligator trapper removed a six-foot and nine-foot gator from the lake.

So far this year, 22 alligator bite incidents have been reported to the Florida Fish and Wildlife. In 2021, a total of 21 bite incidents were reported to the FWC and nine were determined to involve an alligator and be unprovoked, according to the agency.