Indian Harbour Beach, FL (Florida Today) -- When the 6-foot bull shark collided with boogieboarder Amy "Shark Bait" Tatsch, she said it "instantaneously just ripped" into her lower right leg with its teeth, severing her Achilles' tendon and tearing most of her calf into a bloody flap.
Tatsch had been staring out to sea, waiting on her third wave of the morning in choppy waist- to chest-deep water May 15 at Juan Ponce de León Landing.
Instead of catching a wave, the 39-year-old scrambled onto her boogieboard and folded her mangled calf back onto her leg, holding it in place with her hand.
Tatsch said she felt no pain. After riding waves back to shore and hollering for help, her relatives wrapped her mangled leg in shirts to stem the bleeding and called 911.
"The second I knew I had help, I just wanted to lay down and close my eyes and forget about what I saw. Because it was all the way down to the bone," she recalled.
Paramedics loaded her onto a stretcher and drove her to Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne, where she endured five surgeries during a 13-day stay. She received 58 external stitches and probably triple that number of internal sutures and stitches.
After she returned home, nurses visited every day for two weeks to clean and re-wrap her wounds. Four weeks of home-based physical therapy followed. She is now hobbling on her own, and she attends physical therapy three times a week at Pro-Health & Fitness Center in Melbourne.
Now walking again after using a wheelchair, a walker and crutches, Tatsch's friends tease her with her new nickname: "Shark Bait."
Tatsch, a former Ocean Breeze Elementary cafeteria worker, is a single mother of six kids ranging from 22 months to 17 years old. She seeks a job — and she considers herself lucky that she started receiving Medicaid the week before the shark attack.
University of Florida researchers contacted Tatsch and requested photographs of her bite marks. She sent pictures with a tape measure stretched along her leg, and the scientists confirmed it was a 6-foot bull shark.
"You can see his top teeth sunk in right here," Tatsch said at her Indian Harbour Beach home, showing scarred tooth marks from the shark's jaws along her shinbone.
"And his bottom teeth just grabbed here, and just tore almost all my calf all the way off," she said, rotating her leg to display.
Tatsch eagerly looks forward to boogieboarding in Brevard again.
"I couldn't imagine it happening twice. I've been here 30 years, and that's the first time I've had any problems in the ocean," she said. "It definitely hasn't changed me.
"I've got one leg in that whole entire ocean — and he just happened to find it."
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