Our trip started innocently enough. It was the ending that darkened – and almost blackened – our lives.
Elly and I flew down to Florida on a bright and sunny September morning – Wednesday, September 10th, 2014, to be exact. We spent several days visiting friends and exploring the beaches around Jacksonville. We found a condo on the beach in Ponte Vedra, a few miles south of the city, to rent for the winter, and planned to return in December for four months.
We were set to fly home to Connecticut on Monday the 15th. We went to the beach in Ponte Vedra on Sunday for one last afternoon of sun, sand and ocean. We walked the beach for a couple of hours. It was hot. At around three, we put our towels down on a deserted stretch of shore and waded into the lovely, warm waters.
Before we knew it we were 20 or 30 feet off shore, where small waves were breaking, in three or four feet of water…a little past my comfort zone. A flock of pelicans flew overhead, swooping for bait fish that suddenly were all around us. Something brushed my feet. Elly was nearby. I said, “There’s something here, go to shore.”
As Elly started to move, she screamed, “Something bit me.” She screamed again in pain and swam frantically for a few seconds towards the shore, blood streaming behind her, stopping in about a foot of water, lying in the surf, shocked. I had followed and I grabbed her arm and dragged her up out of the surf. “We’ve got to get out,” I said. “Come on. We’ve got to get out.” She stood and I helped her across the sand toward our beach towels, her right foot streaming blood.
We sat down on the towels. The top of Elly’s right foot gaped open, a deep three or four inch gash pulsing blood. A puddle formed in the sand beneath her heel.
We were alone. The nearest group of beach goers was a mile or so south, and up the beach to the north there was no one save a sole figure moving, perhaps a half-mile away. My phone was in our car a mile to the north. The nearest houses, beachside mansions that began a hundred yards north of us, appeared to be deserted.
I had taken off my socks and walking shoes when we went in the ocean. We took one sock and placed it in and over Elly’s wound and applied pressure. We got the bleeding under control. We had the other sock and T-shirts to use as a tourniquet if needed.
The gash was bad, but there was no flesh missing. I knew Elly would be okay. We sat tight for a few minutes, collecting ourselves. Even then, we both were thankful it wasn’t worse. We knew how bad it could have been.
I was prepared to make for our car and the phone. Elly was calm. But the figure walking north of us turned out to be coming toward us. Her name was Sue, she had a phone, and she was really nice. Thank you, Sue, if you see this. Thank you very much. We called 911. Within 15 minutes the EMT team was there, and we were on our way to the Baptist Beaches hospital in Jacksonville Beach, 12 miles away.
Within a couple of hours, the Sunday skeleton crew had called in a surgical team. Elly was in the operating room for 75 minutes. The orthopedic surgeon sutured the severed tendons that go to the toes on the top of Elly’s foot and closed up her wounds. We were back to our friends’ house by 11 that night, Elly on crutches, exhausted but happily alive and already phasing into recovery mode.
On Wednesday we saw the surgeon at his office. “So far, so good, no signs of infection, good healing starting,” he said. He placed Elly’s foot in a big boot – looks like a ski boot – that she’ll wear for a month or so. No weight bearing, crutches and a wheel chair to get around.
Thursday we flew home. Home sweet home, Connecticut. Farewell Florida, and no winter vacation there. Our love affair with the beach is over. Skiing looks pretty safe now. Our next vacation will be to the mountains.
Meanwhile, Elly is doing great. Amazingly, she has had no pain since the first night. It’s tough for her to lie around with her feet elevated all the time. She usually plays tennis for hours every day. But for healing, rest is essential, and she is resolute in her determination to heal her injury. She intends to make a full recovery, and her doctor and I are confident she will. In a month or so she’ll begin a few weeks of physical therapy to regain full function of her foot. Our family and friends have been wonderful, helpful, and supportive. We are so thankful for them…and that we have four more or less intact feet between us.
We never saw the shark that hit Elly. Life can do that. Boom, you’re down. But Elly is so strong, so resilient, so determined to handle things. Many of you know that she suffered a severe stroke in January of 2011 and was in a coma for six weeks. She has recovered and become a fine tennis player.
The universe sends us messages, I believe. Caution, my friends. Death stalks the highways. And beneath the surface of what we see, deadly danger may lurk. Expect and hope for the best in life, but always be prepared for the worst. The driver who runs a light. The shark in shallow waters. Take care.
Our nutritional program is fundamental for Elly’s recovery. We follow the guidelines I present in my article Dr. Ron’s Dietary Principles. One hundred percent. We believe this is why Elly has been pain-free and will heal very quickly. Elly also began our Bovine Tracheal Cartilage, twelve daily, the day after the attack.
Thanks again to all who have given their sympathy and prayers. We love you!