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Hauppauge wrestler Mauriello improving

Hauppauge's Nick Mauriello, right, wrestles St. Anthony's in

Hauppauge's Nick Mauriello, right, wrestles St. Anthony's in December. (Dec. 16, 2010) Credit: George A. Faella

After nine days of what Nick Mauriello Sr. described as "hell," there was encouraging news Tuesday about his son, Hauppauge High School wrestler Nick Mauriello Jr., who is battling a potentially lethal bacteria.

"He's not out of the woods, but he's doing a little bit better," Mauriello said during a news conference at Stony Brook Long Island Children's Hospital, where his son remains hospitalized after being stricken with MRSA and a rarer bacterial infection called Lemierre's syndrome. MRSA can be transferred by blood to blood contact.

"The last three days, we've gotten negative blood cultures back. Negative is good because it means the antibiotics are taking effect. It's working now. Good news," Mauriello said. "He's more coherent. He was able to talk to us even though he's got that tube and the ventilator. It's a step in the right direction."

Stony Brook officials said he was in stable condition yesterday.

There had been little happy news for the Mauriello family since Nick Jr. started to experience pain in his neck area about two weeks ago. "Nothing less than hell," Mauriello said, choking up a bit. "To sit there and watch your healthy, 16-year-old son lying in bed with tubes coming out of him. It was awful. My wife [Sheila] hasn't left the hospital room for nine days. Every time the doctor or any of his staff would walk in, for a while there we got nothing but bad news."

But after a third straight day of negative blood cultures, Dr. Rahul Panesar, the pediatric intensive care specialist who has been treating Nick Jr., was able to call that development "a reassuring sign that, indeed, the [four] antibiotics were working well."

Mauriello, a junior who competed in 18 matches in eight days before being diagnosed with a disease Panesar called "insidious," wrestled at 125 pounds and was among the top-ranked wrestlers in the state. His toughness may be aiding his recovery.

"He's a very strong kid. He's a warrior. He's a fighter," Panesar said. "When we finally did have to put him on the ventilator, we had to give him an ample amount of sedation. If we ever got light on the sedation, he would try to jump out of bed."

A grin broke out on Panesar's face as he continued. "Now, we've lightened up on the sedation and hopefully he's turning the corner. This morning, the nurse was fearful he was trying to reach up and take out the breathing tube, but he was just reaching up to scratch his nose."

There is no timetable for his release from the hospital, Panesar said. "Hopefully, we're looking at taking out the breathing tube and taking him off the ventilator in the next week or so. And then, the long road of recovery lies ahead."

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