Hallandale Beach firefighter back at home after sudden illness

'It's amazing to have him home. I feel like I can breathe,' his wife says

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Erik Conde, the Hallandale Beach firefighter lovingly known as "Hulk," is finally home after a serious illness almost took his life. He's a little skinnier but he's relieved.

"I was so grateful to be on my way home and to sleep in my own bed last night," Conde said.

His wife Rachel added: "It's amazing to have him home. I feel like I can breathe."

Friends and family were used to seeing Conde lifting weights and working to save lives as a first responder, but that all changed on Dec. 28 when he collapsed at his fire station and suffered cardiac arrest.

"I was brushing. I kind of hunched over onto the sink. Something wasn't right," Conde said.

His colleague sprang into action and rushed him to the hospital. Doctors said had he not been given immediate care Conde might not have survived. For weeks, he was treated at Aventura Hospital and Medical Center. Doctors there said he had a bacterial infection in his lungs.

Recently, he has gained strength through physical therapy and medications. Conde also gained a following of people rooting for him to pull through. His co-workers started a Facebook page to keep well-wishers updated and launched fundraisers to help the family with the medical expenses.

"It's been amazing. Hallandale Beach Fire Rescue is a brotherhood, and we love each other, and it's, ah, emotional," Conde said.

So what was his first meal out of the hospital?

"That was Outback Steakhouse believe it or not," Conde said laughing. "I couldn't wait to have a beer, and I couldn’t wait to do that. Couldn’t even finish it."

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