Surfer: Shark took two bites
Candia man describes the attack, recovery
By RAY DUCKLER Monitor staff
April 22, 2009 - 7:32 am
Candia man attacked by shark (4/21/2009)
Bruce Klinker felt a tug and quickly realized that his left foot had been bitten by a hungry fish with sharp teeth.
"I knew right away," said the 52-year-old Candia man, who made headlines Sunday in Florida after a shark attacked him while he surfed with his daughter. "All I'm thinking of is get myself out of the water, stay on the board, look over my left shoulder, because that's where the pain was. I look over my shoulder and the foot's there, so that was a good thing."
Klinker, who's resting in Jupiter Medical Center, was lucky. As lucky as you can get when a shark tries to eat you for lunch. With months of rehab and just a dash of luck, he'll be as good as new.
Three tendons in his foot were reattached during the five-hour surgery, which began at 9 Sunday night and lasted until 2 Monday morning. The ligament that lines the bottom of the foot, protruding distinctly when you point your toes, was rebuilt. He needed 200 stitches to seal the deal.
But the artery in that area was left intact, meaning Klinker didn't lose nearly as much blood as he could have.
"The big thing is there's usually pieces missing, and if there's pieces missing it gets very complicated," Klinker said. "They were able to find the ends of the three tendons that were severed along the top of my foot. The major artery was not severed; it just missed. The nerve rests against the artery and the nerve was severed. I could have been in real danger for my life."
Klinker is an insurance claims handler, a father of four and grandfather of five. His wife, Peggy Anne Klinker, owns Peggy Anne's Quilting and Sewing Co. on North Main Street in Concord.
Klinker went to Jupiter, Fla., with his 24-year-old daughter, Bridgitte Ochsner, a teacher in Westbrook, Maine, who has this week off for spring break. They went to visit Klinker's mother and to surf.
Klinker learned to surf when he moved his family from Massachusetts to Candia 12 years ago. Ochsner soon became his surfing buddy, but she'd never surfed near her grandmother's house in Florida, instead sticking to the cold waters off New Hampshire and Maine.
Klinker said Sunday was perfect.
"A great day, a fine afternoon," he said. "The waves were building, and it was getting to be a really good day. We were just riding and waiting and sitting out there in deep water and enjoying each other's company and the peace and quiet."
It didn't last. Klinker rode a wave, estimated to be 4 to 6 feet high, beginning 200 yards out and stretching through water between the areas of breaking waves.
Ochsner waited by a sandbar for her big wave as her father paddled back toward her, his body flat on the board, his left foot trailing in the water.
"No sign of fins anywhere," Klinker said.
Something grabbed his left foot and shook it. Then, quickly, it happened again, a second bite in rapid succession.
"The pain was very significant on the bottom of my foot," Klinker said. "Not very significant on the top of my foot. I knew I had to get to shore."
He warned Ochsner to head in and yelled at swimmers near the shore to do the same. "I've done enough reading to know that sharks have a heightened sensitivity to blood," Klinker said.
He crawled up the beach, the sand filling his wounds, and asked people to call 911. He elevated his leg and was grateful when a first response medical technician wrapped his foot in a towel.
"Then the pieces really came together with medical personnel and especially the folks at this hospital," Klinker said. "They did all the right things."
Klinker receives a steady diet of intravenous antibiotics, needed to prevent infection, still a possibility.
Meanwhile, his wife is at home in Candia, awaiting her own surgery before she can join her husband in Jupiter. Maybe in a week or less she'll be there.
Klinker estimated that he might not know the full extent of the damage for six months, perhaps a year.
He also said he'll continue to surf the waters near his mother's house.
"There's probably an eight times greater chance of me getting struck by lightning on any given day," Klinker said. "And I still go outside. I just happened to be at a place at a time when something just decided to take a nibble.
"Okay, worse. A pretty good bite."
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