"I almost died, man. I was in a coma. People were criticizing me as if I deserved to be killed." So said a teary-eyed David Ortiz in his first interview after being shot in the Dominic Republic on June 9, CNN reports. When the bullet slashed through his lower back, striking his lower organs and intestines, Ortiz says it stung: "The first five seconds I thought I was having a nightmare." In a separate Boston Globe interview, the retired Red Sox slugger says that's when "this angel comes out of nowhere"—a bar patron named Eliezer Salvador who helped Ortiz into his Rolls Royce SUV, which Salvador rammed out of a parking space blocked by other cars. "He knew how to react," says the 43-year-old. "He kept talking to me to make sure I stayed awake."
Meanwhile, Ortiz says he was "feeling something that I had never felt before and that was just the feeling of trying to survive." With pain setting in at the hospital, he told staff members, "Please don't let me die. I have four children. I want to be with them." He endured three surgeries, slow recovery, and a bacterial infection so severe he began to lose hope—but eventually his body turned a corner. Still, he denies knowing any of the 14 suspects arrested in the case and can't comprehend the $7,800 bounty reportedly put on his head. But his sense of humor endures: "You gotta pay a lot more than that to get me killed," he says. "I ain't that cheap." Ortiz plans to resume as a Fox Sports analyst and thinks he'll be fully recovered by Thanksgiving. (Read more David Ortiz stories.)