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Shark attack survivor makes slow recovery after arm mauled at Killick Beach

ABC NEWS logo ABC NEWS 6 days ago
a person lying on a bed: More than two months after shark attack, Joe Hoffman is home and making a recovery. (Supplied: Joe Hoffman) © Provided by ABC NEWS More than two months after shark attack, Joe Hoffman is home and making a recovery. (Supplied: Joe Hoffman)

Two months and eight surgeries later, great white shark attack survivor Joe Hoffman is on a long road to recovery after his near-fatal encounter on the Mid North Coast.

The 25-year-old Sunshine Coast man suffered severe injuries to his right arm when he was attacked at Killick Beach, north of Crescent Head, on July 5 at about 4:30pm.

Mr Hoffman said conditions were particularly "sharky looking" being late afternoon, whale season, and with large swell.

"You get a feeling when you're looking at it and you look at your odds," he said.

But after travelling down from Byron Bay with a friend they took their chances, hoping to get one or two waves. 

"I was out there for about half an hour," he said, until his wave came rolling in. 

"It was a great wave. Little tube in the end."

Buzzing from his wave he paddled back out — a fateful decision that day. 

"I think as I've duck-dived the wave [the shark] has taken a chunk out of the board," he said.

"Then it might have gone again and taken another glancing bite and got my arm."

"It's so quick. It was there and just gone. In a way, I think that has helped my PTSD because I can't recount it."

It took a few moments for Joe to realise what had happened.

"My mind was on a lot of other factors. I was still kinda fizzing off the wave," he said.

"I looked at my arm. It just looked like a mess. I was thinking 'that's going to hurt later'."

In a calm state, Joe caught the next wave in and walked onto the beach, where highly skilled bystanders came to his aid including a trauma surgeon, a paramedic, and an anaesthetist.

"There's not a doubt in my mind it would have been a catastrophic result, if any of those people weren't involved," he said.

"I wouldn't have made it up the beach. I would have bled out."

Everyone jumped into action and Joe was a "passenger" at the scene.

"I had a tourniquet on my arm in like 30 seconds or a minute,' he said.

"I was thinking 'these guys know what they're talking about'."

Joe was flown to John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle that evening and underwent eight surgeries over 10 days, totalling more than 30 hours in the theatre.

It is uncertain what level of mobility he will regain after the great white shark snapped both bones in his forearm, lacerated the radial nerve, and severed several tendons.

"Any little improvement I have is awesome," he said. 

"I have to take it retrospectively. I was close to not having an arm.

"I do hand exercises that I do five times a day.

"I'm just grateful I have physio I can do."

Fatal attack too soon 

Mr Hoffman, like all surfers, has a deep respect for what is out in the water and takes the chance when they paddle out.

But hearing of a fatal attack just nine weeks after he was attacked, 150 kilometres north, affirmed just how lucky he was to be alive.

Timothy Thompson, 31, died after his arm was mauled by a great white shark at Emerald Beach at Coffs Harbour on Father's Day, September 5.

"I felt for his family. I’m just really grateful I'm still here," Mr Hoffman said.

While recovery could be up to a year for Mr Hoffman, he is already antsy to get back in the water.

"As soon as I can bear enough weight on my wrist I'll be able to push myself up," he said.

"I can't wait to get back into the water.

"My hand is locked stiff. It's very similar to how it would be if I was holding the rail of the surfboard.

"I'm good to go."


Video: Surfer killed in shark attack near Coffs Harbour (9News.com.au)

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