The Chocolate Lady

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Now is probably the best time to mention.....

Every now and again, I mention a certain incident, and people act all stunned that I have never shared the story before.

It's nothing I am trying to conceal, in fact, at the time it occured, it was a great conversation starter...the reason most people I know havent heard, is because the subject just doesnt come up much.

But recently, around here, the topic was in the news, so now seems as good a time as any to share with you, the story of when I was biten by a shark.

I dont have any pictures, but it occured in Mazatlan, Summer 1980, and you can see the beach in this picture on Grandma J's website.

Grandma J, back in the day (heh, I should turn this into a rap, or not.) used to like to go to Mazatlan for Easter break. It wasnt as populated with tourists then, as it is now, and was a great getaway.

We had a standing date for dinner every night, and we would go to a different, delicious and fun restaurant each night. The rest of the time, I was pretty much on my own. Sometimes I think back, and wonder, "Why in the world was a 13 yr. old girl allowed to roam a foriegn country on her own?" but, I figure it was a different day, different time, back then.

Anyhoo...I had a lot of fun. Maybe she let me have so much freedom, because I was a pretty good kid (right Grandma J?) All I really did in Mexico was hang out in the water and body surf. Except for talking to the hotel staff too much, apparently, because one of them tried to marry me, but that's a whole different post.

I dont like the heat, I dont like to lay out and tan, but I love to body surf, and Mexico had some amazing waves, they were perfect.

This particular day, was the day we would fly back home to CA. Our bags were packed and in the lobby. Grandma J was laying out by the pool and polishing off her tan, and I was catching the last waves of our vacation.

In an hour or two, we would both throw on a sundress, sandals and head for the airport.

The water in Mexico is deep blue and warm. I was out just past where I could reach, the best location to catch the waves. I had met a boy who was also body surfing. He was a couple of years older, and lived near us back home, going to the rival high school. We chatted out in the water, while waiting for the perfect curl.

I was sort of hopping up and down on my tip toes, lightly kicking my feet to tred water, in order to keep my head above the surface.

Suddenly, I felt intense, sharp pain slide up my leg with a tug. I knew immediately that I had been biten.

I had been warned, that there were sharks in the warm, Mexican waters, but who listens to that when you have perfect waves? Besides, I didnt come to Mexico to lay next to a pool.

As soon as I felt the bite, I pulled my leg up and started to float, laying very still on my back. I tried not to move, fearful that the animal would re-attack. After what seemed like forever, but was probably more like a few seconds, I started to hurry out of the water.

I had screamed initially, and was now telling my friend that I had been biten, but he laughed and thought I was just teasing.

I tried to show him the cuts on my leg, but the water was constantly washing away any blood, and he was really too far away to see.

I wasnt waiting around to prove it, I was panicked and terribly afraid that the shark would return.

I ran out of the water onto the shore, now clearly in shock. I then walked calmly across the hot sand to the hotel (ok, *I* thought I was being calm, not wanting to seem hysterical) and on the way, I told sunbathers, "There is a shark out there!" They all looked at me like the wacko I was trying hard not to be.

By now, my right calf, and everything below it, was covered in blood.

As soon as I reached the hotel pool deck, and saw my mom, I began to cry. All I remember after that, was sitting down, surrounded by hotel staff, as someone cleaned and wrapped my leg.

When I hear of shark attacks in the news, even just a non-fatal bite, such as mine, I wonder why mine did not receive any media coverage. I mean, not that I wanted it to, but I have been curious as to why it was brushed off. Now that I am older and wiser, I realize that the last thing a hotel wants, during Easter break, is a report of shark attacks in the water. With the way things work in Mexico, Im thinking Grandma J could have bribed the hotel for some hush money to keep it all under wraps.

As the hotel staff bandaged me up, I remember being told that the size of the bite indicated that it was just a baby, probably a Tiger Shark, and most likely 6-8 ft. long. cute, a little baby shark.

My leg wasnt hurt bad at all. I had 4-6 cuts on the outside of my calf, all about 1-2 inches long, and very close together. Not too deep, but enough to bleed a lot.

On the inside of my calf, I had one, long, slanted, razor sharp slice. It went from the top of my calf, and curved outwards before coming back in towards my shin again, like a giant letter C. It was deeper, but thankfully was cut at an angle, rather than straight into my leg. There was a lot of blood, and I think they put butterfly bandages along the deepest part.

With my leg wrapped up, we flew back home, and I *think* we went to the hospital once we arrived in CA, but I honestly dont remember anymore. I know that I didnt really need anything else done to my leg, as it healed just fine.

My friends were all jealous of my dark tan, (the source of all my current wrinkles and facial sun spots) and ooohed and aaaahed over the bite marks on my leg.

I still have a scar on the inside of my calf, just a few inches long, the area that had been the deepest part of the bite.

Some people have asked if I am now afraid of the water, and they answer is yes, and no.

I grew up swimming, and spent that summer, and all of my high school summers, riding my bike to the beach everyday. I loved to body surf, and most of my time was in the water.

Most of my vacations have centered around water sports, snorkeling, scuba diving, ocean kayaking.

Sometimes, Ill be in the water, and Ill start to get freaked out. Like the time I was in Hawaii for my Senior Graduation Trip (again, not sure I would let my 17 year old go away like that without a parent, but I guess that's what people do....ala Natalee Halloway, and God knows if my mom didnt let me go, I would have had a huge tantrum, so, it was probably her only choice, but anyways....)

I was snorkeling with friends in Hanauma Bay, I was getting pictures of cool fish with my disposable, underwater camera (cool invention!) There was one fish in particular, that was hot pink, bright yellow and blue and I was trying to get a close-up shot. I swam away from my buddy (not a good idea) and by the time I got a good picture, I realized that I was far from my friends, and in a bit of a cave. I started to panic, thinking back to my shark attack just over 3 years prior, and swam back to my friends hurriedly.

When My Honey and I got married, we took a honeymoon centered on scuba diving. He was a Biology major in college, and paricularly studied marine biology. It's great to go scuba diving or snorkeling with him, because he knows every living thing, it's name, it's danger level, and any other trivia you might want to know.

On our first dive, the boat had taken us out, about 45 minutes from our hotel, and it was beautful, with crytal blue waters and little else in sight. My Honey jumped in first, and I followed. When I met up with My Honey 80' below, my breath steady and measured, he pointed out into the dark sea. I looked around, and saw more sharks than I could count. Every size, swimming at every depth, in every direction.

You cant really panic when you are using a breathing apparatus, it's dangerous. I forced myself to continue my slow, steady, measured breaths, and it quickly calmed any nervousness that I had. That was the first of several dives, with sharks, that My Honey and I enjoyed on that trip.

I cant say I never felt nervous, and I guess that's part of the fun. We havent been able to dive in a while (pregnancies sort of put a halt to things) but we cant wait for the kids to be old enough to go on family snorkeling trips (Pooper and Beauty are ready, Little One has a couple more years.) The kids have seen video of mom and dad on shark feeds, so we are desensitizing them early for this fun activity.

And speaking of dangerous situations, I think Im less safe in my own driveway! It would be ridiculous to tell you that while talking to a neighbor yesterday, I fell again on the driveway, ripping off the scabs that covered last weeks fall, getting blood all over the knees of my white capris! Seriously, I *so* need one of those, "help I've fallen" , medic-alert necklaces.


Grandma J said...

I remember that trip to Mazatlan in 1980 like it was yesterday. The picture on my site was from a different trip in 1988 with Katarina. were being watched closely in Mexico..I just didn't hover. I didn't particularly like the idea that the staff at the resort let you just "sign" for anything you wanted! It was a great trip, marred by your shark biting incident. It was a significant bite, and I wanted the hotel to take us to the ER. A doctor vacationing at the hotel bandaged you up and the bleeding stopped. He explained that it would be better to get it checked back home since we were leaving in less than an hour. We did go to the ER back home.

Your senior trip to Hawaii??? That was a sanctioned trip wasn't it? Hmmmmm maybe my good girl pulled a fast one!
My anxiety level fluctuates in the ocean too. Sometimes a nice big piece of seaweed can scare me.
I would love to go to Tahiti and swim in that crystal clear water. I'm jealous.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is "Wow!" We went to the beach yesterday and I was thrilled to see lots of dolphins, and Hubby was asking me (in light of the recent shark biting) "How can you be sure they're not sharks?". Umm, maybe because they don't look or swim at all like sharks? Who knows, maybe the onetime marine biologist you're married to would tell me that there are sharks that look like dolphins. Little cute ones, like the kind that bit you in Mazatlan!

As a side note, I kept meaning to write you on your earlier dental post. I've now had two molars extracted (including one done just 2 weeks ago) on teeth that had previously been root-canaled, crowned and recrowned. My advice is just go to the extraction and implant (which are painful and expensive), and skip the root canals, which are less painful, but also expensive. You'll probably end up there anyway. If your dentist thinks the tooth would be hard to save, I'd listen to him. It seems like what happens with a very hollow tooth structure is you end up cracking the tooth way down at the root. Or at least that happened to me and led to lots of agony over prolonged periods of time while everybody was mystified over what was going on. Aargh!
Good luck,
Karen B.

The Running Girl said...

Yikes! I love the ocean, but have to admit if I had been bit by a shark, no matter how big, I might be a little afraid now. I've been bit by little fish and it does kind of freak me out a bit. Glad you weren't scarred for life.