“I am not going to die here,” I said to myself as I fought for my life out at sea.
It was June 2, 2017, the last day of our seven-day cruise through the Caribbean, and my husband, JJ, and I were excited to explore Nassau, Bahamas. We had gone parasailing earlier in the day and decided to go snorkeling.
We got a deal with a local water sports company that took us out to a coral reef known for good snorkeling. We snorkeled together for about 20 minutes before JJ made his way back to the boat because he wasn’t feeling well. I stayed out in the water.
It wasn’t more than 10 minutes from the time JJ left until I felt like I had bumped into something. When I turned to see what I bumped into, I was face-to-face with a shark.
The shark had my whole arm in its mouth, and at first, it wasn’t thrashing or fighting, it was just staring at me intently. Fear took over, and I started to have thoughts of my three kids. It was like a movie reel coming out from my peripheral vision, but the Lord gave me the strength to fight. I remember thinking, No, you are not going to take my life! I yanked my arm, and that’s when the fight began.
There was blood everywhere, and I kept screaming through my snorkel tube. Eventually, the shark stopped fighting, its jaw opened, and my arm popped out. I remember looking down, and my arm was completely gone. All that was left was a little stump.
I was a flurry of emotions, but I didn’t stay in that moment. I couldn’t stay in that moment. I flipped over to my left side, yanked off my snorkel mask and screamed out, “Help! Help me, Jesus!”
I started swimming back to the boat with my left arm, which is my non-dominant arm, and I clearly remember thinking, Get your arm out of the water. As I came within view of the boat, I put my injured arm up in the air, hoping JJ would quickly see that I was badly injured.
JJ turned and looked at me in shock. He saw my severed arm spraying blood everywhere and screamed, “Baby!” as he jumped in the water to come get me. I fervently prayed, the Holy Spirit helping me, and then in between breaths I would yell out, “Help me, Jesus! Help me, Jesus!”
My husband helped guide me back to the boat and he and the boat captain lifted me up onto it since I couldn’t lift myself. As soon as I hit the boat, the peace of the Lord surrounded me like a cloud and His presence was so thick and tangible. I did not panic. I wasn’t in tears. I wasn’t in shock. I just looked at my husband and said, “Get me something to stop the bleeding.”
I spotted a beach towel that we had brought with us and told him to grab it. He grabbed the towel, wrapped my arm as tightly as he possibly could and elevated it. I laid my head on his lap, closed my eyes and prayed as we made our way to shore.
After about a 30-minute boat ride, we made it back to land. I had emergency surgery in the Bahamas and then was transported back to the United States the following day. As I lay in the hospital bed in North Carolina awaiting another surgery, I opened my devotional and the Scripture to work through was Psalm 18:2: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” I continued to read the chapter and noticed that what I was reading was what had just happened to me.
“I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies. The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. … He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me” (Psalm 18:3-6, 16-19).
Several medical professionals have told me I should have bled out on that boat. They say that me being alive does not make sense medically because of the trauma to my arm, not having a tourniquet and the 30-minute boat ride.
All I had was a salty beach towel to stop the bleeding, but the Lord had His miracle-working hand holding me the whole time, so much so that I did not even require a blood transfusion.
Since that day in June, I’ve had four surgeries, and my family has had to establish a new normal. There have been bumps along the way, but God has been so good to cover our minds with peace and love and strength and hope. Of course, there are times when my faith is tested. But in those moments I turn to Scripture and choose to stand on God’s promises and speak them over my life.
From the very beginning when the attack happened, one of the prayers that I prayed on the boat was “God, use this. Somehow use this.” Since the attack, I’ve seen God use my story over and over again to show people who He is. I’ve cried many tears in thankfulness that He chose me to carry this burden and trusted me in this.
I’m thankful that God can use any situation in our lives to save people and bring glory to His Name, even a shark attack.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version.