Man undergoes surgeries after shark attack in Boca Grande Pass

Reporter: Morgan Rynor Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:

A man was treated at the hospital for bite wounds after he was attacked by a shark while fishing.

On Wednesday, Paul Kelly was fishing in Boca Grande Pass when he fell off the boat. That’s when he said a shark bit into the tendons of his leg. He has undergone two surgeries to repair the damage.

“It wasn’t hurting, so there wasn’t anything I could do about it,” Kelly said.

MORE: Man bit by shark fishing in Boca Grande Pass

In situations like the one Kelly found himself in, getting to a doctor as quickly as possible is imperative. Trauma surgeons call it the golden hour. Getting treated within the first hour of a trauma is critical to survival.

Kelly was out on the water tarpon fishing during his run-in with a bull shark. He hooked a fish, but it quickly pulled away.

“You’re not locked into it,” Kelly said. “My foot slipped.”

Before Kelly knew it, he was in the water.

“I felt something hit me,” Kelly said. “I thought it was a tarpon, but it was an 8 to 10-foot bull shark.”

The boat captain pulled Kelly out of the water back onto the boat. Then, Kelly’s military training jumped into action. He cut of circulation to his leg that was bitten while they made their way back to the dock. Kelly was rushed to Lee Memorial Hospital afterward.

“It was weird because the last time I flew in one of those was ‘Nam,” Kelly said.

That’s when Kelly met Dr. Robert O’Connor. The trauma center sees anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 patients a year. But it doesn’t typically receive patients who were attacked by a shark.

“It was the first one I had seen in 10 years,” O’Connor said.

There are certain animal bites more common for O’Connor in Southwest Florida, however.

“Stay away from the alligators, you can swim with the sharks apparently,” O’Connor said. “But stay away from the alligators.”

Luckily, the shark didn’t break any bones, so a few surgeries and a round of antibiotics will get Kelly back in good shape.

O’Connor said the most common acute injuries are blunt force traumas.

“[Those] are falls and car accidents, assaults, slip and falls,” O’Connor said.

The number of patients for those are continuously rising.

“Our volumes continue to go up,” O’Connor said. “And it just shows that the population is increasing here. And that just comes with more injuries unfortunately.”

Lee Health will soon turn over its trauma center to Gulf Coast Medical Center after renovations are finished.

As for Kelly, he said he’d gladly go fishing again if his wife will allow it.

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