Susan Peteka, 60, suffered serious wounds to her left arm hand when she was bitten by a shark while taking her regular morning swim off Ocean Reef Park on Singer Island, Palm Beach County, Florida.
The shark species was not recorded.
“I was swimming my last couple of strokes, about to get out. And all of a sudden, I remember lifting my arm and the next thing you know, wham!,” she said.
“I just looked down, I saw two fingers droop immediately. I started seeing blood coming out of my radial artery.”
“I just said ‘Swim for your life! Swim for your life! Swim for your life!’ And I just did that,” she said. “I kicked myself in, just kicking.”
Peteka’s was the first of two shark attacks on 23 October 2017 off Palm Beach County, Florida. The second shark attack was on teenage surfer Jason Hartl.
“I knew I had to get to shore quick or I would have been dead,” she told the press. “You have superhuman strength that you don’t know you had until something like that happens to you. It’s a primal thing. You just do it.”
Peteka managed to get to shore where she bled profusely and became light-headed.
“I just started screaming, ‘Help me, I’m going to die,'” Peteka said.
A nearby resident heard her cries, called 911 and wrapped a towel above the wound.
She was transported to St. Mary’s Medical Center.
An orthopedic hand surgeon at the hospital, Dr. Thomas Saylor, said her hand was “shredded”, adding that it appeared the shark shook her wrist from side to side.
“Her bite wounds are pretty traumatic,” Saylor said. “It’s a devastating injury.”
Her injuries to her left hand and wrist included 20 torn tendons and
ligaments, a severed artery, two fractured bones and nerve damage.
Doctors found a piece of shark tooth wedged in her wrist bone.
“It’s going to keep me out of the water,” Peteka said. “I love swimming with a passion. But now, I can’t look at it. I can’t think about it. I don’t know that I can ever go back again.”