Shark bite victim unafraid
14-year-old girl says she's ready to 'keep on going'
By THAYER EVANS
GALVESTON - A North Carolina girl bitten by a 5-foot black-tip shark off the Bolivar Peninsula made her first public appearance since the attack Saturday, saying she has no fear of returning to the water.
Kevin Fujii / Chronicle
Lydia Paulk, 14, of Denver, N.C., gets a push Saturday from her mother, Laura. Lydia, who has been at University of Texas Medical Branch since being bitten by a shark Wednesday, said her foot "doesn't really hurt that much."
"I just have to deal with (this), continue on, get it healed and keep on going," said Lydia Paulk, 14.
Paulk, who was bitten Wednesday, held a midafternoon news conference with her left foot in a cast that extended almost to her knee. She and her family were planning to leave for home today, said Laura Paulk, Lydia's mother.
The high school sophomore, who has been hospitalized at the University of Texas Medical Branch, appeared to grimace as her foot was propped on to a chair by her mother but said she feels fine.
"It doesn't really hurt that much," Lydia Paulk said. "All the nerves are healing. You know when your feet fall asleep, that's kind of what it feels like right now. It's tingling.
Paulk has undergone two surgeries to repair torn and severed tendons in her foot, UTMB orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kelly Carmichael said. He estimated her recovery time should take six weeks to three months.
"She should be able to walk fairly normal," Carmichael said. "She may not be able to completely lift her toes off the ground. She should be able to get back to soccer. The most uncertain part is what will happen with the skin. It could turn out that her skin lives and almost nothing else has to be done or it could turn out that she needs a skin graft or some other procedure."
Paulk said she was pushing her cousin in a rubber raft, accompanied by her aunt, when she felt what she thought was a fish brush her leg.
"It bumped me coming towards me and then it must have turned around and bumped me again. Then it grabbed my foot."
Paulk said she tried to climb on the raft, while her aunt screamed and hit at the water to scare the shark away.
"My leg was still in the water and (the shark) still had it," Paulk said. "It was thrashing around, grabbing, kind of still tearing at" my foot.
"It was scary," Paulk said. "I guess I have God to thank that it let go and didn't bite anything else."
Two shark teeth that were removed from Paulk's foot will eventually be returned to her, Carmichael said.
"I'd like to have them as a little souvenir," Paulk said.
Paulk's shark bite is the sixth in six years along the Galveston County shore.