Shark bite victim in Auckland Hospital
4:55 PM Monday Sep 6, 2010
Danish Sports Sciences Student Bjorn Jensen, 24, recovers after being bitten by a shark in the Haapai Islands, Tonga. Photo / NZPA
A Danish student, whose foot was severely damaged by a shark while he was on a whale watching adventure in Tonga, is undergoing surgery this week in Auckland Hospital.
Bjorn Jensen, 24, was swimming with a group of eight other tourists and two guides off the Hapai group of islands late last week when the shark sank its teeth into his foot.
"It's like four big puncture wounds when it took a bite," he said from his hospital bed today.
Mr Jensen said they were all swimming in a line and close to a whale and her calf so weren't focusing on anything else.
"It was amazing as the mother whale was swimming underneath us and then suddenly I felt this whack on my foot and thought I may have banged into some coral or a whale. I was confused and didn't know what happened so the guide swam over, and got everyone straight back on the boat," he said.
Mr Jensen said his foot didn't hurt because he must have been so pumped with adrenalin and in shock. He didn't see the shark but one of the others in the snorkelling group told him they saw what they thought was a large shark just before the whales swam towards them, and in the excitement didn't tell anyone.
"I had blue flippers on, and all the others had yellow ones so mine must have been more tasty looking!"
Fortunately his fellow tourists included a doctor from Japan, and a nurse along with a psychologist from Australia.
"I was lifted straight back on to the boat and they knew what to do with my foot."
He was immediately flown to hospital in Tonga's capital Nuku'alofa where he underwent surgery to repair his badly damaged ankle tendon, and big toe. However, more specialist surgery was needed so on Saturday night he was flown to Auckland Hospital and on Sunday went under the knife.
"I will need more surgery and that includes a skin graft from my leg to my foot as there's quite a bit of flesh missing."
Mr Jensen said he'd been told he may lose some function in a couple of his toes.
His surgeon is former All Black Jeremy Stanley. "I am in good hands, and will be having more surgery on Wednesday so may be in hospital for a week. The consul-general of Denmark has visited and given me a few books to read."
Mr Jensen came to Auckland from Denmark to study sports science at Auckland University and enjoy the outdoors. His interlude with the shark has meant he won't be competing in Auckland's marathon later this year, riding his mountain bike, or windsurfing for a few months.
"But I am lucky to not lose my foot or some toes and don't believe the shark bite will affect my outdoor activities long term."
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