It was more like swimming in a pool rather than the deep
ocean waters in Kauai, Hawaii. The waves were small and
inconsistent, and I was just rolling along with them,
relaxing on my surfboard with my left arm dangling in
the cool water. I remember thinking, I hope the surf
picks up soon, when suddenly there was a flash of
That was all it took: a split second. I felt a
sudden great pressure and a couple of fast tugs. I saw
the jaws of a four-and-a-half-meter tiger shark cover
the top of my board and my left arm. Then I watched in
shock as the water around me turned bright red. My left
arm was gone almost to the armpit, along with a huge,
crescent-shaped chunk of my red, white and blue
Lying on my surfboard, watching my blood spread in
the water around me, I said to my friends nearby, in a
loud, yet calm voice, "I've just got attacked by a
Byron and Holt got to me in a flash. Holt's face was
white, and his eyes were wide with shock. But, he took
control of the situation: he pushed me by the tail of my
board, and I caught a small wave that washed me over the
reef. Fortunately, it was high tide. If it had been low
tide, we would have had to go all the way around the
reef to get to shore. As it was, the beach was still
about 400 meters away.
My arm was bleeding badly, but not spewing blood like
it should with a major artery open. I know now that
wounds like mine often cause the arteries to roll back
and tighten. I was praying like crazy: "Please, God,
help me. Let me get to the beach," over and over again.
Holt took off his grey long-sleeved shirt. The reef
was shallow now, less than a meter deep, so he stood and
tied the shirt around the stub of my arm to act as a
tourniquet. Then he had me grab onto the bottom of his
swimming trunks and hold on tight as he paddled both of
us towards the shore. Byron was already ahead of us,
stroking like crazy to the beach to call an ambulance.
Holt kept having me answer questions like, "Bethany, are
you still with me ? How are you doing ?" I think he
wanted to make sure that I did not pass out in the
middle of the ocean. So I was talking, just answering
his questions, praying out loud an watching the beach
get closer and closer.
Once we reached the shore, Holt lifted me off the
surfboard and laid me on the sand. He then tied a
surfboard leash around my arm to stop the bleeding. At
that point, everything went black, and I was not sure
how long I was out of it. I kept drifting in and out of
consciousness. what happened after that was confusing, a
mix of sights, sounds and feelings. I remember being
I heard this happens when you lose a lot of blood.
People brought beach towels and wrapped me up in them.
I remember starting to feel pain in my stump and
thinking, This hurts a lot. And I know I said, "I
want my mum !" I remember being very thirsty and asking
Alana for water. So she ran up to a visitor, Fred
Murray, who had heard cries for help and dashed to the
beach while the rest of his group, here on Kauai for a
family reunion, relaxed at a beachfront rental home.
"Come with me !" he yelled, and they both raced back
to get one of his family members, a man named Paul
Wheeler, who was a captain and a paramedic at a
Californian fire station. Alana explained to him, as
best as she could in her state of shock, what had
happened and that I needed water.
Paul did not hesitate. He bolted out the door to be
by my side. I remember his face and the compassion in
his voice. I think everyone was relieved that there was
a professional on the scene; I know it comforted me.
Paul examined the wound. Alana came with water, but Paul
advised against it. "I know you're thirsty," he told me,
"but you're going to need surgery, and you will need an
A neighbor brought a small first-aid kit, and Paul
slipped on gloves so that he could wrap my wound in
gauze to keep it clean. I remember wincing as he covered
it up, but I knew he had to do it. Paul felt my pulse.
He shook his head. "She's lost a lot of blood," he said
I remember thinking, Why is the ambulance taking
so long to get here ? Please, please hurry ! Holt
decided we could not wait any longer. He, Paula and Fred
Murray lifted me onto Holt's surfboard and carried me to
the car park where they put me in the back of the
Blanchards' truck. Again, I kept passing out, only
catching glimpses of what was going on and bits of
frantic conversation. Then, at some point, emergency
vehicles arrived. I remember their sirens, high-pitched
and shrill. I remember being jabbed with needles and
being slid onto a stretcher and into the back of the
ambulance. I remember most clearly what the Kauai
paramedic said to me. He spoke softly and held my hand
as we were pulling out of the Tunnels parking lot. "God
will never leave you or forsake you."