TALLAHASSEE, FLA. (WSVN) - A North Florida teen faces a long road to recovery months after she survived a shark attack.
Addison Bethea, who lost part of her leg in the June 30 incident, is back home from the hospital and on the mend.
Before the 17-year-old left Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare’s rehabilitation center earlier this month, front-line workers who took care of her gave her a round of applause.
Bethea has come a long way since the attack. The teen was hunting for scallops in the water near Keaton Beach in Florida’s Panhandle when a shark described by her family as nine feet long swam up and bit her.
“I didn’t really know exactly what to do, but I knew that with sharks, you’re supposed to punch them in the nose to get them off of you, and I couldn’t get around to punch it in the nose,” she said, “so then I just started socking it in the face, and then I poked its eyes, and then I tried to latch it off of me with my fingers, and it bit my hand.”
Bethea’s brother, Rhett Willingham, said he heard his sibling scream for help.
“Well, we were actually swimming side by side when it happened, and I heard her, like, make a noise, like something scared her, and I sat up and looked and didn’t see her,” he said, “and then she came up in the water, and I saw the shark and the blood and all that.”
That is when Willingham, who’s a firefighter and emergency medical technician, swam over and got the shark off.
“There was another boat that pulled up, like right next to us, to get her, so [a boater] helped me load her in the boat, and then we put the tourniquet on her and then got her back to land as soon as as possible,” he said.
Addison was taken to a Tallahassee hospital when she had to undergo a partial amputation surgery for her leg.
The hospital later posted updates like her first steps after surgery.
Now that she’s back home, Bethea said she’s grateful her brother was there to save her life.
“He’s always been kind of like a hero to me. Ever since we were little, he’s always been there, and I don’t really expect anything less of him, to be honest,” she said. “Like, anytime I was in trouble, he would get me out. He promised me.”
Willingham says he’s happy to see his sister’s positivity.
“It’s definitely not something I ever expected to watch, but seeing her now and how positive she is, is good to see,” he said.
Bethea’s family said they are planning to continue her outpatient rehabilitation, as well as home healthcare services.
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