Cedar Rapids radio host has reason to smile after battle with flesh-eating disease

KMRY's Ricky Bartlett says he appreciates life more

KMRY radio personality Ricky Bartlett laughs as he talks to Eric Walker from the station’s studio in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Thursday, June 16, 2016. Bartlett says the KMRY and its listeners have embraced him like family. Bartlett recently celebrated his one-year anniversary at the radio station. In 2014, Bartlett had to have his left leg amputated below the knee after contracting a flesh eating disease. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
KMRY radio personality Ricky Bartlett laughs as he talks to Eric Walker from the station’s studio in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Thursday, June 16, 2016. Bartlett says the KMRY and its listeners have embraced him like family. Bartlett recently celebrated his one-year anniversary at the radio station. In 2014, Bartlett had to have his left leg amputated below the knee after contracting a flesh eating disease. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — KMRY radio personality Ricky Bartlett has made it a point to not take life for granted after a near death experience.

Bartlett, of Iowa City, had part of his left leg amputated below the knee 18 months ago after contracting necrotizing fasciitis, commonly known as flesh-eating disease.

“He was given a second chance at life and he decided to live it wholeheartedly,” said Jennifer Bartlett, Ricky’s wife of 22 years.

Ricky said he believes he got the infection during a trip to Wyoming and South Dakota in 2010, as part of the Geographic Information Systems program at Kirkwood Community College. While he was in the Badlands of South Dakota, one of his blistered feet became stuck in the mud.

However, it wasn’t until October 2014 that he saw any symptoms. Soon, he became very ill.

On Dec. 6, 2014, Jennifer demanded her husband go to the emergency room.

“We get to Mercy (Hospital) in Iowa City and all I remember is getting out of the car and getting into a wheelchair,” Ricky said. “They rolled me into the lobby and I passed out. I woke up and my leg was gone.”

Ricky was transferred to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, where medical staff several times told Jennifer he wasn’t going to make it.

But he did make it, and Jennifer Bartlett said Ricky approached his recovery with a positive outlook.

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“I appreciate life more,” he said. “I have this mentality now of ‘if I can defeat this, I can do anything. Take advantage of the opportunities you have.’”

Ricky received his first prosthetic in early February of 2015. And in June 2015, he landed a job at KMRY, as host of the mid-morning show.

Ricky had worked in radio in the past, but was most recently in the IT field — to which he couldn’t return because of physical restrictions.

Station Manager Eric Walker said he hired Ricky the same day they met after he felt “an immediate connection.”

Since then, Bartlett “has been a great asset to the station,” added Rick Sellers, owner and general manager of KMRY.

“We get a lot of calls of people reacting to what he says and him, and it’s all positive,” Sellers said. “We get more calls about (Bartlett) than anyone else we’ve hired.”

To Walker, there are more interesting things about Bartlett than his physical appearance.

“He puts sage on everything. He still drinks peach soda,” Walker said. “These are the things I find more interesting and fascinating then ‘by the way he’s missing a leg.’ The lack of leg does not make the man.”

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