Boy recalls gulf shark attack
Friday, August 26, 2005
GALVESTON, Texas (AP) - A 12-year-old boy who nearly lost his foot to a shark sat in a wheelchair at a Galveston hospital Friday and recalled how he hit the animal's nose and lifted it into the air to get its clenched teeth from his ankle.
"It was pretty scary at first," Julian Elizondo recalled early Friday morning.
Julian remembers the shark tugging his left foot, causing him to fall on his hands and feet into knee deep water in the Gulf of Mexico, just a few feet from shore.
"I thought it was my friends playing with me until I looked up," he said. "Then I felt a sharp pain tugging it and pulling it. At that point, I reached down and I hit the shark on the nose and pulled it up. And that's when it let go. When it is actually happening you don't know what to do. I just started hitting the water."
A father of one of Julian's friends ran out and picked up the 12-year-old out of the surf.
"I thought it would come back," said Julian, who hasn't been able to walk since the shark bite. "I was just trying to get as far away as possible."
Julian had gone to the beach on the evening of Aug. 19 with some of his teammates following football practice. He had heard about other shark bites along the coast in recent months and decided to stay in shallow water and just jump the waves.
"We didn't think anything would happen because we were only knee deep," Julian said. "It was at night, so I didn't see anything. I wasn't expecting anything."
After two surgeries, Dr. David Yngve, a surgeon at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, said Julian should be back on the football field next year. He'll have to wear three different casts over 9 months and go through months of physical therapy to allow his ankle to heal properly.
"The best thing is that he is young and he is going to have a much quicker healing than an adult would," Yngve said. "If this was an injury to an adult, it would be very slow. He probably would not be getting back to playing football."
Julian's mother, Joyce Elizondo, knows her son has a long road ahead when it comes to his recovery. She says the goal is to get him back playing football for the "Seabrook Sharks."
"We have all the shark T-shirts. I have a shark purse. We are real into it," the mother said. "The whole spin is a shark got bit by a shark."
Jokes aside, Joyce Elizondo said seeing her son in the hospital after a shark clamped onto his ankle was the scariest thing she's ever been through.
The boy's father, Sal Elizondo, said when his wife got a call from friends that their son had been bitten by a shark, it sounded like Julian would only need a few stitches. The family, who lives in Seabrook, about 27 miles northwest of Galveston, wasn't prepared for what they would see.
"When I really got a good look at the extent of the wound, I was really hoping they could save his foot," Sal Elizondo said. "I was really surprised they were able to reconstruct it as well as they did."
UTMB doctors say Julian is the third shark bite victim they have treated in the past 13 months.
Marine experts have said sharks are on the move during summer months and frequently mine the shallow Gulf of Mexico waters for fish.
"It is hard because that is what Julian likes more than anything is to be at the beach," Joyce Elizondo said. "He is a strong kid and a real positive kid, and something tells me he'll be back out there."
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