Heather West, a Houston native, was snorkeling with friends at Loggerhead Key in Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida when she had the horrifying incident.
According to reports, the group was snorkeling at Little Africa Reef when the sea became too turbulent for them to continue, so they turned around and had a picnic on the beach.
According to MailOne, they swam back to shore in a single file line, with Heather, who lives in a van and tours the United States, being the last one in the sea.
She turned on her front and looked behind her to see a six-foot lemon shark with its jaws clamped around her foot.
Heather said: “I was really excited to explore Loggerhead with these guys I’d met travelling, as they were experienced snorkelers.
“When we got in everything was fine, but then the water became really rough and tidal so we decided to head back.
“That’s when I got a strange feeling that something was wrong, and funnily enough i felt the tug on my ankle.
“I originally thought one of the others was just being silly, but after the second pull I knew exactly what was happening.
“I turned on my back to see this huge beast with my foot in its mouth, so I instinctively started kicking it in the face with my other foot.
“It kept tugging and tugging, and I could feel its teeth in my ankle.
“I was wearing flippers and my kick wasn’t doing much damage, so I decided to lean forward and start punching it.
“I punched it in the face over and over again as hard as I possibly could, and after about 30 seconds it finally let go.
“For the next two minutes I was in complete shock and couldn’t swim, but by this point my friends had ran back in the water to help me.’
Heather’s companions Greg Haw, 65, Douge Chancy, 70, and Freeman Hobs, 74, swam back into the sea and worked together to drag Heather to the safety of the shore.
Her foot had been completely mangled by the shark, and it was clear that she needed medical attention as soon as possible.
Heather said: “When I got to the shore I just started screaming ‘I won, I won’ because I realised that I still had my foot.
“In the water I was convinced he’d bitten it off, so seeing it still there, even though it was completely mangled, was a huge relief.
“The adrenaline was coursing through me and I actually felt so proud that I’d genuinely fought off a shark.
“Thankfully the two park rangers were there to call for help, because if they weren’t we would have been completely on our own.
‘The boat trip to Fort Jefferson was the worst bit of the whole experience, because the tourniquets they were tying to stop the bleeding were so excruciatingly “painful.
“They were tying one after another until we eventually got there, by which point I was physically exhausted.’
When the group got to medical experts they were told that she needed hospital treatment and Heather was instructed to board the aircraft which was about leave the fort.
She was flown an hour to nearby Key West where surgeons assessed the damage to her foot.
Heather had thought she needed to be flown to Miami for plastic surgery, but after a specialist doctor assessed the damage he decided stitches would be enough.
Heather said: “They were minutes away from flying me to Miami for plastic surgery, but in the end the doctor just folded the skin back down and sewed up my foot.
“Now I have little control over my right foot and ankle because of ligament and tendon damage, but I’ve been told it could return over time.
“The whole experience was completely mental, and one that will stay with me forever.
“When I think back, I’m convinced that if I hadn’t of had that bad feeling and turned my body to start swimming to shore, it would have taken a chunk out of my torso.
“In that instance I would most likely have lost to much blood and died on that beach.
“It’s unusual for sharks to take one bite and then persistently try again even after feeling resistance.
“The same shark is said to have been sighted a few days earlier when it came right out on to the shore to try and hunt a pelican which is really unusual behaviour.
“I can only think the poor thing must have been starving, because it was trying to drown me and drag me out to sea.
“Despite all of this, I want the record to show that I love sharks, and don’t want to discourage people from getting in the water.
“As a matter of fact I’ll be right back in as soon as I heal up!”
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