A Florida teenager whose leg was ripped off by a shark has walked on crutches for the first time since she was amputated above the knee.
Addison Bethea limped down the hallway of the hospital along with her doctor and brother Rhett following the brutal attack last month.
The 17-year-old is continuing to fight her horrific injuries but had a rough time last week as she went through physical therapy.
Meanwhile a trauma surgeon told DailyMail.com the youngster faces a prolonged physical and mental recovery from her wounds.
Addison was viciously attacked by the shark while scalloping off the coast of Keaton Beach, near Grassy Island, Taylor County, on June 30.
The 9ft beast tore open her right leg but was forced to let go when her 22-year-old EMT worker brother Rhett raced over to her and beat it off her thigh.
Addison Bethea, 17, walking with crutches for the first time after horrifying June 30 shark attack where she nearly lost her life
Addison is learning how to use the crutches as she adjusts to her new normal having one leg since the shark accident that happened while scalloping off the coast of Keaton Beach, near Grassy Island, Taylor County, Florida
Addison Bethea (pictured with her brother Rhett) said as soon as her horrific wounds are healed she will race back to the water – as she underwent a three-hour amputation this morning
On Wednesday, the family shared with DailyMail.com a heartwarming video of Addison walking down a corridor.
The footage shows her amputated leg wrapped up in bandages as she made her way down the hallway. ‘That’s amazing,’ the doctor said. ‘Good job.’
Addison’s father Shane Bethea told DailyMail.com his daughter had a good day on Wednesday and even did a miniature press conference with some local news outlets.
‘She was in a great mood. She felt really good,’ Shane said. ‘She was riding around in the wheelchair with her brother pushing her all over and popping wheelies.’
On Thursday, his daughter was not feeling as upbeat and was experiencing some pain and fatigue, as he shared some of the highs and lows.
Since the surgery that took place when doctors amputated her right left, Addison has been working on her recovery.
She has been doing daily physical therapy and learning how to rely on her crutches to give her more mobility.
On Monday, Shane told the DailyMail.com that Addison was meeting with the rehabilitation facility to learn what the next step is in his daughter’s recovery.
Dr. Matthew Bank, a trauma surgeon with NorthShore University Medical Center told DailyMail.com on Monday that the young shark victim survivor, who he does not personally know, is looking at two different types of recovery.
The first is the actual physical recovery of her ‘literally getting back onto her feet.’
The other is the psychological recovery on having an amputated leg for the rest of her life.
Before she gets fitted for a prosthetic that is made custom for her, the amputation site has to completely heal – this can take up to three to six months – and than she will be trained on how to use the prosthetic.
‘An above the knee amputation is typically more difficult in terms of recovery as opposed to a below the knee amputation,’ Bank said.
‘The fact that she is young and in good physical shape before the shark attack and before the amputation that will help her in her recovery, so that is on her side.’
In terms of what that will look like, Bank said ‘it is truly difficult to to know what she will be able to do and not to do once she has her prosthetic, he said, but said there have been significant developments with prosthetic limbs over the last 20 years mostly relating to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.’
As far as the psychological impact of losing a major limb at only 17, Bank told DailyMail.com that these types of injuries on young people can have a severe psychological impact, but said there are resources to get support.
Trauma Survivor Network, a national network of survivors who have suffered from severe traumatic injuries, is one.
‘It it’s unfortunate and it’s upsetting,’ said Bank, who explained that in his 21 years working as a trauma surgeon, he never had a shark attack victim.
He explains there is a a silver lining.
‘I have had many patients who had traumatic leg amputations that survived and went on to have a very fulfilling and productive life,’ he said.
Meanwhile her father Shane (pictured together), 46, paid tribute to her ‘hero’ brother Rhett and warned if he had not been there the family would ‘be at the funeral home’
Days after the horrific attack Addison underwent a three-hour amputation.
Speaking to DailyMail.com ahead of the operation, the 17-year-old also revealed she planned to have a prosthetic limb fitted in a few months.
The fearless young woman, who is a cheerleader and tennis player at her high school and avid swimmer, said once her wounds are healed she will race back to the water.
Meanwhile her father Shane, 46, paid tribute to her ‘hero’ brother Rhett and warned if he had not been there the family would ‘be at the funeral home’.
Despite the horror, Addison said: ‘Once my leg is healed I am going back in the water.
‘Even though so much may be unknown you have to just fight through the unexpected.’
She was wheeled into surgery around 8am where doctors from Tallahassee Memorial Hospital were set to amputate her leg above her knee.
Her father Shane, who has been by his daughter’s side since the attack, said his girl was ‘pretty sedated’ and called her a ‘trooper’.
After the surgery, Addison will be moved into an inpatient rehab facility, where she will continue her recovery. He said: ‘The goal is for her to have a prosthetic leg.’
One of the challenges, is ‘to prevent infection,’ he said, but feels confident that his daughter is getting the best medical care.
‘The doctors here have been more than wonderful. They have explained every step patiently and thoroughly.’
‘If Rhett hadn’t been there, we would be at the funeral home instead of the hospital. That is for sure,’ he said. He added: ‘That boy is the definition of a hero.’
Her father Shane, who has been by his daughter’s side since the attack, said his girl was ‘pretty sedated’ and called her a ‘trooper’
Addison said that at first she thought her brother was playing around and only when she looked down did she notice that it was a shark
Growing up in Florida, Addison is familiar with the region’s beaches and was scalloping
Addison Bethea was attacked by a shark near Grassy Island, off Keaton Beach in Taylor County
A shark attack took place at Lovers Point Beach in Monterrey Bay, California, with the victim being rushed to hospital after suffering serious injuries to his stomach and leg
On June 30, Addison and her half-brother, Rhett Willingham went out scalloping in just 5ft of water.
She told how she tried to punch it in the nose – which she had seen was the best way to deter it on TV – but could not reach it.
‘Rhett was just like tapping me and then something latches onto my leg. And I was like, ‘That’s not Rhett’. I look and there’s this big old shark,’ Addison told WTXL.
‘I remembered from watching animal planet you’re supposed to punch them in the nose or something – but I couldn’t get around to his nose the way he bit me.’
Shane said she had been in Rhett’s boat about a mile-and-a-half off-shore swimming in the water when she suddenly felt something hit her in the back of the leg.
‘Addison thought her brother was just playing around until a 9-foot shark latched onto her thigh and she started screaming, and there was blood everywhere,’ he said.
As his daughter tried to pull the shark off her leg, her brother started beating nonstop on the beast trying to pry his sister loose.
Once she was free, he grabbed her and carried her to his boat. A random stranger saw that the pair were in distress.
Rhett placed his sister on the stranger’s boat and then he used a 4ft tourniquet around her right upper leg to try and stop the bleeding.
‘The shark got her bad,’ Shane said. ‘She was very pale, and nearly going into shock.’
Rhett called for an ambulance and when they arrived back on land, she was airlifted to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital.
Addison was rushed into emergency surgery as doctors tried to avoid taking her leg off from her hip.
But the way the shark mangled her thigh there was great uncertainty and she has now lost it above the knee.
‘The shark attacked her right leg, front quad muscle. It was completely annihilated. It was devastating, a nasty, nasty wound,’ Shane said.
‘The vascular surgeon took the vein from the left leg and turned it into an artery for the right leg to get blood flow.’
First the shark had got her lower leg and it wasn’t so severe but said the second bite was when all the damage was done, he said.
‘The shark latched onto her leg and was thrashing around. That is what they do when they attack they grab meat and rip it off,’ he added.
He said his daughter, who was sedated and intubated at the hospital was unaware how bad the shark got her.
Shane said the surgeons were attempting to salvage enough tissue from her lower leg in order for it to be suitable for prosthetics to be fitted.
He added: ‘Above the knee or worst case scenario by the hip.
When Addison woke up he said she was intubated and unable to speak but we gave her our cell phone and she wrote she wanted a ‘Frosty from Wendy’s.’
He said once he explained to his daughter, who is a cheerleader, plays tennis, and is heading into her senior year of high school, what had happened she was in good spirits but at times felt extremely sad.
Many of her friends came to visit her in the ICU to lift her spirits. He added: ‘My daughter is alive that is the number one!’
The sheriff’s office said ‘swimmers and scallopers are cautioned to be alert, vigilant, and practice shark safety.’
Critical rules beachgoers need to follow include is to never swim alone. Not to enter the waters near fishermen, notably sandbars, where sharks often like to congregate.
Swimmers are also advised not to swim near large schools of fish, and to avoid erratic movements while in the water.
On June 22, a 62-year-old man suffered ‘major injuries to his stomach and leg’ at Lovers Point Beach in Monterey Bay, California, located in Pacific Grove, north of the city of Monterey.
The man identified as Steve Bruemmer, was attacked by the shark around 11 am.
He was rushed to Natividad Medical Center where he was reported not to have suffered any damage to his arteries or organs.
Bruemmer, a triathlete, told NBC Bay News that he has been swimming in the bay at least twice a week for the past 10 years.
A nurse and police officer, who were paddle boarding nearby, and a surfer teaching a safety class on the beach, heard the swimmer’s cries for help and rushed to his aid.
‘That she is even alive is the number one thing!’ Shane said of his daughter, Addison
Rhett Willingham, 22 saved his sister Addison Bethea, 17, during a shark attack on Thursday
Signage is placed along many of the Florida beaches warning swimmers, surfers, to ‘know your risk when entering the water.’ Florida has topped the global charts for for shark bites and accounts for nearly 40% of unprovoked shark bites worldwide, according to The International Shark File (ISAF)
Bruemmer, grateful to have survived, expressed gratitude for the good samaritans life-saving actions.
In a statement released by the hospital, a day after the attack Bruemmer said: ‘the shark bite was unlucky. But after that, I have just had so much good luck.’
Tracking Sharks is a site that hosts information on shark attacks across the globe that provides information on the reason why shark attacks occur, and offers ways to prevent negative shark encounters in the future.
As of July 1, there have been 32 shark attack bites (3 provoked), 4 fatal attacks, that were publicly reported and verified in 2022, according to the site.
Fifteen of the shark attacks took place in the United States (Hawaii 0, Florida 9, California 1), 9 in Australia (1 fatal), according to Tracking Sharks.
If a person encounters a shark when in the water, experts recommend remaining still still and not to swim away.
If the shark does attack, experts recommend punching the shark with all their might in the nose, due to their sensitivity. In most cases, experts says, that will drive the shark away.
They also advise that if a shark is circling around someone in the water and does not seem to be of immediate threat, they key is to remain still and vigilant until it swims away.
Florida has topped the global charts for for shark bites and accounts for nearly 40 percent of unprovoked shark bites worldwide, according to The International Shark File (ISAF).
The ISAF that is based out of the Florida Museum of Natural History and the University of Florida, is ‘the only global scientifically verified database of shark attacks,’ according to its website.
Since its inception in 1958, there are now more than 6,800 individual investigations covering the period from the early 1500s to the present, the ISAF reported.
Volusia County in Florida is considered the Shark Bite Capital of the World, had the most shark bites (17), accounting for 63% of all Florida attacks, according the ISAF.
Florida’s 28 cases represent 60% of the U.S. total and 38% of unprovoked bites worldwide.
This is consistent with Florida’s most recent five-year annual average of 25 incidents.
Lovers Point Beach in Monterrey Beach, California (pictured here) was closed for 48 hours after the June 22 attack that left a male surfer with serious injuries
The chart pictured here shows September as the month with the greatest number of shark attacks, as the month of August trails closely behind. January is shown as the month with the least number of shark attacks
The chart pictured here shows the most popular time of day, in a 24-hour cycle, a person is likely to be attacked by these frightening predators. According to the chart, 11 am to 12 noon and 2 pm to 3 pm, are peak times when these predators like to feast
The chart pictured here describes the type of shark that are involved in many of these unprovoked shark attacks. According to the chart, ‘Requiem sharks’ that come from the family of carcharhinidae, account for 36% of the shark attacks. These sharks are commonly found worldwide in warm, shallow waters along coasts and in rivers
The chart pictured here shows victims of unprovoked shark attacks were at it highest between 2010 and 2019. Those victims that were engaged in water activities, categorized as ‘surface recreationists,’ that include surfing, water skiing, windsurfing, boogie boarding, rafting, or floating on inflatables, at the time of attack
Addison Bethea, 17, walks on crutches for the first time after horrifying shark attack