Girl, father share story of shark attack
Saturday, June 15, 2019
A shark took her leg, some fingers and injured both of her hands, but 17-year-old Paige Winter isn’t angry in the slightest.
The New Bern High School student who loves marine life wants everyone to know that “sharks are still good people.”
“When I was in that water, I was praying, ‘I’m 17, I’ve got so much to do’ and it’s true, I’ve got a lot to do,” Winter said about her June 2 encounter with a shark off shore at Fort Macon State Park.
“I think with this situation, I can transform it. I think I can transform this into something good for me and good for sharks and good for the environment, too. That’s kind of what I really want. It really helps to know that I’m not alone in the situation. There are other survivors of shark bites that have been sending some buzz, and that really helps. Sharks are still good people. They’re still so good and they’re so cool.”
Paige spoke in a pre-recorded video played during a news conference with her father, Charlie Winter, and her caregivers at the Vidant Medical Center administrative offices in Greenville on Friday.
Charlie Winter, a firefighter/paramedic himself, told the story of how he rescued Paige from the surf on what had been a beautiful day at the beach. Paige and her sisters were enjoying the water with a group of friends when Winter decided to join them.
“I ran out in the water and just before I got to them, they turned around and saw me,” Winter said.
Then disaster struck.
“About three seconds after I turned my head, I heard ‘Charlie! Shark! Paige! Get her!’ I turned to where Paige was and there was no Paige. Paige was underwater. There was pink on the water and I saw pink and it was moving,” Winter said.
He went straight to where the pink was, dove under and grabbed her.
“I pulled her up over the water and a shark came up with her,” he said.
“It was big shark and it kind of thrashed a little bit. It had a big eye just staring at you. I immediately started to hit it. I wasn’t keeping track but I know I was hitting it. And I hit it with everything I could. And it let go,” Winter said.
Winter managed to pull Paige away from the shark, grabbed her and moved back toward the shore.
“I could see the damage. As I was turning, I looked and grabbed her on her thigh to try to stop the bleeding. I started to run immediately back to shore,” Winter said.
As he ran, another shark lingered in the water while the one that bit Paige gave chase.
“I did not know that the shark was at arm’s length behind me chasing us, and I also did not know there were two sharks out there,” Winter said.
After getting his daughter to shore, Winter collapsed from exertion.
“I went to my hands and knees in the water. I couldn’t even stand up anymore. I was totally drained,” he said.
People ran up and began rendering aid while they waited for an ambulance to arrive. Winter gained the strength to crawl to where his daughter’s body was.
“I grabbed her by her right hand and I don’t think I’ve ever told my children I love them so much so many times. I wanted her to know that I love her,” Winter said.
Despite losing massive amounts of blood, Paige stayed calm. She didn’t even cry or scream.
“Paige was quiet, she was calm and she only said the word ‘Dad,’” Winter said. “And she repeated that every few seconds and I kept telling her, ‘I got you, I got you.’
“And she was so calm, and I could see the damage and I knew it was bad. I started to worry a little bit,” Winter said.
Once an ambulance arrived, Paige was taken to Carteret General Hospital and later flown to Vidant Medical Center.
According to her trauma team doctors, Eric Toschlog and Richard Zeri, Paige’s injuries were severe.
Prior to arriving at Vidant Medical Center, Paige received packed red blood cells along with plasma.
Yet, she was alert and in good spirits.
“Upon arrival to the trauma center, Paige was conversant, alert, incredibly calm and frankly courageous,” Toschlog said. “Paige had lost a significant amount of blood and unfortunately, it became immediately apparent that her left lower extremity had sustained profound tissue damage and was not salvageable.
“She also had significant tissue loss to her left hand as well as significant damage to her right hand as well,” Toschlog said.
Paige was taken to an operating room where her left leg at the level of her thigh was amputated.
She then had to undergo numerous surgeries for her hands, which Zeri and his team performed.
As of Friday, Paige has made remarkable progress and will be discharged to undergo rehab early next week, Toschlog said.
She is expected to undergo rehab for the next six to 12 months.
While Paige has a long road ahead of her, Winter said his daughter is up for the challenge.
“She is here. She’s tough and she’s got a lot of things to show a lot of people and she’s going to. The shark took her leg but did not take her spirit,” Winter said.