Byron Bay shark attack survivor Sam Edwardes says he hopes to surf again – but it will be a while.
Sam, who had a ‘big chunk’ taken out of his thigh by a juvenile white pointer at Belongil beach on Sunday February 17, is recovering after major surgery and before he heads into weeks of intensive rehab.
He credits his quick-thinking friends for his survival along with a yoga breathing technique he believes slowed his metabolism down enough to cope with the massive blood loss he sustained.
Sam had paddled out with his friend Dane Davidson at around 6.30 in the morning.
‘I got out there first – Dane was on his way out – and within 10 seconds of being out there I was sitting on the board and felt this massive bump. It attacked me from the side – I didn’t see it coming,’ he told The Echo.
‘It was smashing me around for about five seconds – and had an intensely tight grip on me, gnawing into me.
He said the shark left as quickly as it came.
‘It got what it wanted – it took a big chunk out of my leg and off it swam.’
Not realising how big the bite was, Sam headed back to shore ‘fairly frantically’, together with Dane.
‘When we got to the beach, I looked down to check my wound and that’s when I saw the extent of the bite and the damage – and it was pretty horrifying to be honest.’
‘Dane and a couple of other surfers – Beaver and Mark, who I didn’t know beforehand – tourniqueted my leg with two leg ropes and a huge amount of pressure. They saved my life, honestly.
‘We were on the beach for about 15 minutes before the ambulance got there. And they kept me alert – I was losing vision and my breathing was very laboured because of the blood loss.
‘They just lay with me for about 15 minutes and just comforted me. It was a very calm, almost surreal atmosphere.
‘They did a brilliant job, those guys.
‘The breathing exercises that I practised for years and years at yoga partly saved my life as well. I was just doing this beautiful, mediational breathing. I swear to god it is what was keeping me calm and keeping my body working through all of that.’
When the ambulance did arrive, it took about three minutes to ferry Sam to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter, where life-saving blood supplies were waiting.
‘When I got to the helicopter I’d lost so much blood that they couldn’t get a blood pressure reading so they put me straight onto blood transfusions.
‘I ended up having ten blood transfusions and two platelet transfusions.’
Sam was taken into theatre where they first cleaned up the wound and then repaired it with plastic surgery in one very long operation.
Sam says the wound is recovering ‘very well’.
‘I’m very lucky in that the shark just missed my sciatic nerve and my femoral artery. And it just missed my knee.
‘The recovery is looking great,’ he said, adding, ‘it is forecast to be quite swift and straightforward.’
But he admits it will be a while before he can walk, let alone surf, again.
‘I’ll be in hospital for probably another week, then a couple of weeks of intensive rehab and then a few months of continuing rehab – but I should be able to get back to work within about six weeks.’
Sam says he thinks he will go back into the surf, saying his attack was sheer bad luck.
‘I’ve been surfing most of my life. You could argue you shouldn’t go out too early in the morning but a lot of attacks happen in the middle of the day as well.’
Sam said he felt ‘deeply appreciative of everyone involved in helping me, from the guys on the beach to all the people in the hospital’.
‘I feel so privileged to be living in a country where medical help can be so amazing and so available,’ he said.