JAN.2.2002 South Africa
Nursing a sore and heavily bandaged foot, a Zululand doctor on Wednesday recounted his ordeal on a surfski off Mtunzini on New Year's Day when he was savaged by a shark.
Dr Michael van Niekerk, 26, of Mtunzini, is recovering in the Bay Hospital in Richards Bay after a shark sank its teeth into his right foot, luckily missing major nerves and tendons.
Van Niekerk, fellow Ngwelezana Hospital doctor Darryl Wood and former Ngwelezana doctor Pieter Smith, out from England on holiday, had set off on their surfskis to paddle from the Mlalazi River mouth to Mtunzini beach about 6.30pm.
About 1,5km out to sea and with the sun setting, Van Niekerk stopped to wait for Smith to catch up with him and dropped his legs over the side of his fibreglass craft.
"I felt something hit my right leg with a big splash. It tugged my foot but I managed to brace myself with my paddle. I pulled my foot up and saw a gash on the side."
The young doctor told Wood, who was on a surfski near him, that he had been bitten and raced towards the shore.
After beaching his craft, he crawled along the sand and waved down a passing 4x4 bakkie, whose driver wrapped Van Niekerk's injured foot in a towel and drove him to friends who were waiting for the paddlers on the main beach.
There they poured water over the wound and wrapped it up again and he was driven to hospital where he underwent surgery.
He said he expected to be in hospital for the next three days.
Once the bandages are removed, experts may be able to determine what kind of shark bit him, but already there is speculation that it may have been a Zambezi shark.
Van Niekerk and his friends said the attack served as a reminder to surfskiers not to paddle alone or at dusk and not to dangle their legs over the sides of their boats out at sea.
"It's also a good idea to have a waterproof pouch with emergency provisions," said one of his hospital visitors.