Shark Survivor Lydia Strunk, 'I Saw My Leg Was Shredded'

Lydia Strunk describes moment her Puerto Rican kayak trip turned "terrifying"

ByABC News
September 4, 2011, 11:06 PM

Sept. 5, 2011 — -- If Lydia Strunk needs any reminder of just how lucky she is to have survived a shark attack off the coast of Puerto Rico last week, all she has to do is look down at the cast on her right leg.

"You are truly one-in-a-million," reads an inscription on the cast, left by one of Strunk's friends.

"But I like to correct that -- that is one in 11 million," Strunk said today on "Good Morning America." "Because those are the odds."

The tale of survival against the odds for Strunk began late last Tuesday when the 27-year-old was kayaking with a group of 16 fellow U.S. tourists in the bioluminescent Mosquito Bay in Vieques, a tiny island just east of Puerto Rico.

Eager to see glow-in-the-dark fish, she jumped into the water with four other people, when something hit the leg of the person next to her.

"I jumped out and swam for about 10 minutes," Strunk said, speaking out publicly for the first time since her attack. "It was amazing."

"Then the person next to me asked, 'Did you feel that?'" she recalled. "Then, moments later, I felt a strong impact against my right leg and it pulled me into the water. Then I felt the shark swim across my left leg and then swim away."

"It was certainly a moment that changed from enjoyable to terrifying very quickly," she said.

Shrunk, a law student at the University of California in San Diego, had been bitten by a 6-foot tiger shark.

"I just felt strong pressure, but I just instinctually lifted up my leg and saw that my leg was shredded," she said.

"I got back in my kayak and I was more so in a state of frightened disbelief, saying 'Oh my god, oh my god,'" she recalled. "Then the adrenaline kicked in."

The harrowing journey for Strunk was just beginning as she faced the prospect of being transported from her group's remote location in the middle of the bay to an emergency facility where she could be treated.

"The tour guide tied my leg in a tourniquet," she said of those first few moments after the attack. "Then we had to kayak back into shore and then, from there, we embarked on a 10-15 minute bumpy ride on these dark island roads and then we reached the emergency room."

Strunk was airlifted to the Rio Piedras Medical Center on the mainland that night, where the 10-inch wound from below her knee to her ankle left by the shark was treated by doctors.

"Once I reached the emergency room I immediately felt relief," Strunk said. "Immediately I felt like it could have been a lot worse. Once the tour guide and everybody moved into action I felt like got impeccable emergency response, so I immediately felt fortunate."

Doctors repaired four tendons in Strunk's right leg that are used for flexing the foot. She is expected to make a full recovery but will likely have some nerve damage and limited movement in her right foot.

"It was like (the shark) tried to tear away," Dr. Pablo Rodriquez, part of the medical team who treated Strunk, told the Associated Press. "She has an imprint of all the shark's teeth."