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  • Pensacola News Journal

    'I only see blood': Twin sister of teen recovering in Pensacola recalls Walton shark attack

    By Benjamin Johnson, Pensacola News Journal,


    After two surgeries to deal with the near-death injuries of a Walton County beach shark attack, Alabama teen Lulu Gribbin had the opportunity to rest at Pensacola's Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital.

    Gribbin's mother, Ann, wrote on CaringBridge that the teen's recovery from her traumatic attack has surprised everyone, including her doctors.

    "I think she has also surprised her doctors and nurses with how miraculous her journey has been up until this point," Ann Gribbin wrote. "Today was a day of recovery after her surgery."

    'I made it:'Teen wakes up in Pensacola's Sacred Heart after Walton County shark attack

    Lulu Gribbin was attacked by a shark Friday while swimming at Rosemary Beach during a mother-daughter vacation, losing her hand to the shark and sustaining a near-fatal injury to her leg. The teen was transported to Sacred Heart where she underwent lifesaving surgery and a right leg amputation.

    Along with the mom's update, Lulu Gribbin's twin sister, Ellie, also recounted her experience of the shark attack, saying her "life was changed forever" after she ran back to shore when the word "shark" was screamed by a beachgoer.

    "I finally got close to shore so I stand up and turn around and my life was changed forever," Ellie Gribbin wrote. "Instantly I only see blood. The entire ocean is red, ocean waves bring the blood closer.

    "And then I see my sister, she is screaming for help and then she reaches out for Lila (a friend at the beach) because she is the closest to her and I can see her arm," she added. "Her arm without her hand, it was just a limb of flesh, blood and muscle, no hand to be found."

    Two men then helped take Lulu Gribbin to shore where she was then transported to Sacred Heart Hospital. Ellie Gribbin says her sister was saved by the tourniquets applied by beachgoers.

    According to the girls' mother, Lulu Gribbin will need a total of four or five surgeries before she can begin complete recovery.

    How many shark bites have been fatal?

    The International Shark Attack File documented there were 14 confirmed shark-related fatalities last year, 10 of which were assigned as unprovoked. This number is higher than the five-year annual global average of six unprovoked fatalities per year.

    Of Florida’s 16 unprovoked bites last year, none were fatal. The last fatal shark attack in Florida was in 2010 when 38-year-old kiteboarder Stephen Howard Schafer died from massive blood loss following an attack by at least one shark in the ocean off Stuart Beach.

    Researchers stress that fatal shark bites are extremely rare. In a USA TODAY article, it was revealed that the odds of dying as a result of a shark attack in the U.S. is 1 in 3,748,067.

    How can you avoid being bitten by a shark?

    While the chances of being bitten by a shark are very rare, the FWC offers some tips on how to avoid being attacked while out in the ocean:

    • Always stay in groups since sharks are more likely to bite a solitary individual.
    • Do not wander too far from shore; this isolates an individual and places him or her far away from assistance.
    • Avoid being in the water during darkness or twilight hours when sharks are most active.
    • Do not enter the water if bleeding from an open wound or if menstruating – a shark's ability to smell blood is acute.
    • Wearing shiny jewelry is discouraged. When light reflects off shiny jewelry, it resembles the sheen of fish scales.
    • Avoid waters with known discharges or sewage and waters used for any type of fishing – especially if there are signs of bait fishes or feeding activity. Diving seabirds, which frequently feed on bait fishes, are good indicators of such activity.
    • While there are myths and anecdotes about dolphins saving humans from shark bites, the presence of dolphins does not indicate the absence of sharks — both often eat the same foods.
    • Use extra caution when the waters are murky.
    • Remember that sharks see contrast particularly well. Uneven tans and bright-colored clothing may draw a shark's attention.
    • Refrain from excess splashing, as this may draw a shark's attention.
    • Do not allow pets in the water; their erratic movements may draw a shark’s attention.
    • Be careful when occupying the area between sandbars or near steep drop-offs — these are favorite hangouts for sharks.
    • Swim only in areas tended by lifeguards.
    • Do not enter the water if sharks are known to be present, and get out of the water if sharks are sighted.
    • Never harass a shark.

    Samantha Neely, Collin Bestor, Cheryl McCloud and C.A. Bridges of the USA Today Network contributed to this report.

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