Sustaining a shark bite is probably most people’s idea of a living nightmare, but junior doctor James Grant was not going to let it get in the way of him and a cold beer.
Here’s what happened: Grant, 24, was out fishing with some mates at Garden Bay, near Cosy Nook in Southland, New Zealand. He was pretty pleased to catch his first fish almost straight away, but not so pleased when he felt the clamp of a shark’s jaw fasten itself to his leg. Grabbing his diving knife, he stabbed at the shark, trying to get it to unlatch. He believes he gave it several sharp jabs, but regrets that the knife was not long enough to really penetrate. It looked like a type of seven-gill shark from what he could see thrashing around.
As he told Radio New Zealand, his thoughts at the time were, “Bugger, now I have to try and get this thing off my leg.” The shark bite was presumably incredibly painful, but he did not allude to this in any interviews he gave.
The shark gave up the fight and Blake tried to call for help from his friends. They were spear fishing further along in the bay, but they did not rush to his assistance. They all assumed he was “taking the p…”
While the friend carried on with their fishing, oblivious to his dilemma, Grant got himself ashore and sat to stitch up his own leg wound with a needle and thread from his first aid kit. He says it was pretty fortuitous he was wearing a thick material of wetsuit, which now bears the holes that are testimony to the bite. He kept the first aid kit handy in his vehicle, in case any of his pig-hunting dogs ever sustained a wound.
Even after his friends saw that he was injured, they weren’t too concerned about the young medic’s accident. “He was walking so it couldn’t have been that bad,” said Jim Robins. The team thought they might have to check in at the hospital, but not before they had called in at their local pub first to down a few pints.
The Colac Bay pub provided some bandages to stop the wounded leg from dripping blood all over their carpets as the shark-bite victim and his buddies sank some cold ones. James Grant was sorry that he had not killed his attacker, as there was a fishing competition on at the pub and he would have stood a good chance of winning. Eventually he went off to the hospital, where he had to withstand more “banter” from his medical colleagues as they stitched him up properly this time.
Grant says he is very lucky to still have his leg but the experience will not deter him from fishing or going in the water. He is just waiting for the stitches to come out so he can resume all his leisure activities.
A marine officer from the Department of Conservation thought the shark was most likely to have been a broadnosed seven-gill shark. They are common in that area and are known to attack humans. They can grow up to 3 meters long. The bit marks were compatible with the tooth pattern of such a shark.
For James Grant, thanks to his medical training, bravery, optimistic demeanor, and a fair smattering of good luck, getting bitten by a shark was not the tragedy it might have been. With his temporary stitches in place, he was more than happy to join his mates in the pub for a post shark bite beer. A lot of New Zealanders would say he had his priorities just right.
By Kate Henderson