Shark attack victim swims at Oreti Beach
11 November 2006
By SHANNON THOMSON
On the eve of the new millennium some people celebrated with champagne with friends as they ushered in the new century – Jenny McDowell did not.
Then 13, Miss McDowell was in hospital on a morphine drip after being attacked by a shark at Oreti Beach on New Year's Eve in 1999.
She had been swimming at the beach with friends when a broadnose shark bit her left arm. The bite went through to the bone and severed her ulna artery.
Almost seven years later, it is only now she has begun to face that fear and move on with the help of the reality television show NOW hosted by Phil Keogh. Miss McDowell will feature in the first episode of the show, which screens tomorrow night.
While hundreds of people scrambled to audition for the show, Miss McDowell was approached by the producers.
"I got an e-mail, and it was real random, from one of the production managers telling me about the show and said they wanted to know if I would be willing to do the show," she said.
The producers wanted to do a show focusing on sharks and had contacted the Department of Conservation for names of people attacked by sharks.
For the show, Miss McDowell gained her dive certificate and was flown to an island in the Pacific to attempt a dive with sharks.
Because of the show's contract clauses Miss McDowell was unable to give a detailed account of her episode before it screens on television.
However, she said the experience had inspired her to keep working on getting back in the water.
Her final step was taken at Labour Weekend when she returned to Oreti Beach to face her fear and swim where she was attacked.
"It's my last step – a bit like AA," she said.
Despite the cold and the body of a baby seal on the beach – the same as when she was attacked, Miss McDowell entered the water with her younger brother and two friends. Afterwards she said she felt "fantastic".
"I've been here like four other times but this is the first time I've been swimming – I've got up to my knees and then run back to the shore."
Miss McDowell's mother Jane was at the beach when she attempted the swim.
"I was nervous but extremely proud," Ms McDowell said.
"She has come so far and I'm so excited to see her happy and excited – she knows she can do anything now."
Readers can watch the outcome of Miss McDowell's dive on NOW at 7.30pm on TV2 tomorrow.
http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/southlandt ... 11,00.html