Boy bitten by shark recounts attack, recovery
By Katlynn Lanham
Published August 2, 2009
LAKE JACKSON — Aaron Perez is not afraid to go fishing, but when seaweed brushes his leg, he almost always jumps.
It has been five years since Perez was fishing with his father at Bryan Beach and bitten by a shark on his arm deep enough to expose the bone. He was flown to the Memorial Hermann Hospital, where his arm was surgically reattached.
Though doctors originally were unsure if the then-11-year-old would ever regain full use of his arm, after a year of physical therapy, his arm functions today as if he never was bitten.
If not for the scars that circle his forearm, no one would guess about the terrifying day and the long year of recovery.
“I’m back to normal,” said Aaron, now 16.
He has no restriction of movement in his arm and has perfect feeling in his fingers, he said.
His full recovery was not expected by the surgeon, said Blas Perez, Aaron’s father.
“The arm was amputated,” Blas Perez said. “It was a complete replant.”
The only thing connecting his forearm to his elbow was several inches of bone that were completely exposed, Perez said.
“The night of the surgery, we didn’t know if he would have his arm back,” Blas Perez said.
Aaron gets an annual checkup to make sure scar tissue is not growing in his arm, Blas Perez said. Aaron must routinely massage his arm to make sure the tissue does not build up, because if it does, it could stop his arm from full movement, he said.
Today Aaron plays violin in the school orchestra, plays soccer, runs cross country and golfs. He attends Brazosport High School and plans to go into the medical field.
“I thank God that I do have my arm,” Aaron sad. “It would definitely be different without my arm.”
Aaron and his father now go kayak fishing instead of wading most of the time, Blas Perez said. Though Aaron is only slightly more wary after his shark bite, his father’s memories of the day can not be as easily forgotten, he said.
“It’s my son,” Blas Perez said.
“I still have nightmares about it,” he said.
Looking back, Aaron remembers how perfect the day was when he was attacked. He remembers the weather and the fishing were top-notch, he said.
All of that quickly changed when a school of fish brought a shark into contact with Aaron’s leg and clamped down on it. Quickly recalling something he saw on “Shark Week” on The Discovery Channel, Aaron hit the shark in its gills to get it to release his leg. But the shark then latched onto his arm, where it inflicted the most damage.
Blas Perez and family friend Don Townes beat on the shark to get it to release Aaron’s arm.
“I was thinking I was going to die,” Aaron said. As his father got him to shore then to the hospital, Aaron repeatedly asked him if he was going to die or lose his arm.
The pain in his arm caused his whole body to throb, he said.
“It was just overwhelming,” Aaron said.
The amount of media coverage he received after the shark bite was a little overwhelming as well. After the attack, Aaron appeared on every national news morning show, the Oprah Winfrey show and the Montel Williams show. His story was featured on a two-part series during The Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week.”
Though the media coverage might have been fun, Blas Perez will not forget what brought it about.
He remembers the panic he felt that day. He never has been that scared before or since, he said.
“It helps you appreciate life a little more,” Blas Perez said.
Katlynn Lanham is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at (979) 237-0150.