SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida teen survived a shark attack while he was marking a milestone.
Lucas Cruz and his family were celebrating his 15th birthday in the Keys last month, but things took a scary and painful turn.
Eventually, Cruz was airlifted to the hospital where he received multiple surgeries.
Several weeks later, his wounds have improved, but he’s still going through physical therapy.
Cruz spoke to 7News about the moment the shark struck.
For the last two months, the physical therapy center at Kendall Regional Medical Center has become part of Cruz’s routine.
He’s there several days a week working to get back to normal after the shark bit both his legs during a trip to the Keys.
The Pinecrest teen was down there celebrating his birthday with family and friends. On the morning of Aug. 7, they went lobster diving in Ocean Reef near Key Largo when out of nowhere…
“I kind of felt the push or pull feeling. I thought it was a boat. I thought a boat hit me, but I looked above the water and saw there was no boat, so I instantly kind of just… I didn’t see my leg yet, I just knew it was a shark,” Cruz said.
“All of a sudden I hear Lucas scream, ‘ Shark! Shark!'” said Michelle Lopez, Cruz’s mom.
When everyone realized what happened, they quickly helped Cruz get into the boat.
“And that’s when I saw the back of his calf just totally missing and blood everywhere,” Lopez said, “and that’s when I kind of lost it for a minute.”
“Once I got into the boat and saw my leg — I looked over and saw my leg — I thought there was a chance I was gonna lose my leg.”
The boat captain put tourniquets around his legs until they met with first responders, who treated Cruz and then airlifted him to Kendall Regional Medical Center.
“He was near death when he arrived,” said Dr. Mark McKenney.
McKenney said by the size of the bite, he believes it was a large shark that attacked Cruz.
“I had a tourniquet on, I had a dressing on it,” he said. “When it took it down, the whole middle part of the calf was missing.”
By the time Cruz arrived at the hospital, he had lost a substantial amount of blood.
“He was so white, he was as white as the sheets, actually,” McKenney said. “It was, like, stunning how pale he was.”
With that said, the medical team had to move fast.
“A few extra minutes, if somebody wasn’t aware enough to put the tourniquet on, unfortunately, he wouldn’t have made it,” said McKenney.
But after multiple surgeries, thankfully, Cruz is expected to make a full recovery.
Although he still has a year of physical therapy left, he said it won’t keep him from getting back in the water as soon as he can.
“A lot of what we do as a family has to do with the water, on my mom’s side and my dad’s side, so I think if I just cut it completely out of my life, I would be missing a lot,” Cruz said.
Cruz was recently cleared to go back to school. He is using a wheelchair to get around.
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