Shark attack victim says he punched shark in gills to escape

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A sign warns visitors to Long Nook Beach of recent shark sightings, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018 in Truro, Mass. (AP)
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William Lytton, of Scarsdale, N.Y., left, is assisted by physical therapist Caitlin Geary at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, in Boston, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, while recovering from a shark attack. (AP)
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William Lytton, of Scarsdale, N.Y., right, speaks with physical therapist Caitlin Geary during physical therapy at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, in Boston, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, while recovering from a shark attack. (AP)
Updated 29 August 2018

Shark attack victim says he punched shark in gills to escape

BOSTON: The man bitten by a shark off Cape Cod this month said Tuesday he escaped by punching the powerful predator in the gills after it clamped down on his leg.
In his first interview since the Aug. 15 attack , William Lytton said he’d been swimming in about “8 to 10 feet” (2.4 to 3 meters) of water off Truro, Massachusetts, when he felt an incredible pain shoot through his left leg and quickly realized he was being attacked by a shark.
The 61-year-old neurologist from Scarsdale, New York, said he gave the animal a strong smack in the gills with his left hand, a move that likely saved his life but also resulted in some torn tendons. He now sports an arm cast as well as bandages and a brace around most of his left leg.
“I initially was terrified, but, really, there was no time to think,” he said, recounting the ordeal following a physical therapy session at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, where he’s been since Sunday. “It doesn’t feel like I did anything heroic. A lot of this was luck.”
Lytton said he must have recalled from nature documentaries that the gills were one of the most vulnerable parts of the shark.
After the animal broke its grip, he took a few strong stokes back to shore where he shouted for help. Someone alerted his wife, who had been on the beach with their two young daughters and family friends.
Other beachgoers — including off duty nurses and other medical professionals — helped stem the bleeding and carried him up the dunes to the beach parking lot as he started to lose consciousness from the blood loss.
“The pain was really excruciating,” Lytton said. “I remember the helicopter landing and then nothing for the next two days.”
Lytton was airlifted to Tufts Medical Center in Boston where he said he was placed into a two-day coma, underwent six surgeries and had nearly 12 pints of blood pumped into him.
The professor at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn said he’s grateful to be alive, but knows he has weeks more of rehab — and at least one more surgery — before he’s back on his feet.
The shark, fortunately, missed critical nerves and veins and didn’t leave major bone damage, though pieces of shark teeth were cleaned out of his wounds and his bandages cover “hundreds” of sutures used to stitch back together muscles and skin, Lytton said.
“It looks very artistic,” he said diplomatically of his battle wounds.
Lytton was transferred on Sunday to Spaulding, a rehabilitation hospital where many of the most severely injured survivors of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing were treated. He is expected to be there around two weeks before eventually returning to New York for possibly more rehab.
Lytton said he isn’t in any rush to wade back into the ocean waters off Cape Cod, where he spends nearly every summer doing research.
“It’s kind of terrifying thinking about it,” he said. “I know it’s not the best thing to say, but I didn’t like sharks before, and like them even less now.”
Lytton’s wife, June, said she hopes the attack is a warning for others to take shark safety seriously.
“It’s still not real to me,” she said Tuesday standing at her husband’s side. “It happened so close to shore. I never thought that could happen.”
State biologists are working to determine what type of shark was involved in the attack, which was the first in Massachusetts waters since 2012. The state’s last fatal attack was in 1936.
Meanwhile, shark sightings have continued to close Cape Cod beaches as the tourist destination prepares for Labor Day weekend and the last big hurrah of the summer.


At 90, Alaska Native woman is 1st counted in US Census

In this Monday, Jan. 20, 2020 image, Lizzie Chimiugak looks on at her home in Toksook Bay, Alaska. (AP)
Updated 22 January 2020

At 90, Alaska Native woman is 1st counted in US Census

  • The decennial US census has started in rural Alaska, out of tradition and necessity, ever since the US purchased the territory from Russia in 1867

TOKSOOK BAY, Alaska: Lizzie Chimiugak has lived for 90 years in the windswept western wilds of Alaska, born to a nomadic family who lived in mud homes and followed where the good hunting and fishing led.
Her home now is an outpost on the Bering Sea, Toksook Bay, and on Tuesday she became the first person counted in the US Census, taken every 10 years to apportion representation in Congress and federal money.
“Elders that were before me, if they didn’t die too early, I wouldn’t have been the first person counted,” Lizzie Chimiugak said, speaking Yup’ik language of Yugtun, with family members serving as interpreters. “Right now, they’re considering me as an elder, and they’re asking me questions I’m trying my best to give answers to, or to talk about what it means to be an elder.”
The decennial US census has started in rural Alaska, out of tradition and necessity, ever since the US purchased the territory from Russia in 1867. The ground is still frozen, which allows easier access before the spring melt makes many areas inaccessible to travel and residents scatter to subsistence hunting and fishing grounds. The mail service is spotty in rural Alaska and the Internet connectivity unreliable, which makes door-to-door surveying important.
The rest of the nation, including more urban areas of Alaska, begin the census in mid-March.
On Tuesday, Steven Dillingham, director of the census bureau, conducted the first interview after riding on the back of a snowmobile from the airport to Chimiugak’s home.
“The 2020 Census has begun,” he told reporters after conducting the first interview with Chimiugak, a process that lasted about five minutes. “Toksook Bay isn’t the easiest place to get to, and the temperature is cold. And while people are in the village, we want to make sure everyone is counted.”
Dillingham was hours late getting to Toksook Bay because weather delayed his flight from the hub community of Bethel, about 115 miles (185 kilometers) away. Conditions didn’t improve, and he spent only about an hour in the community before being rushed back to the airport.
After the count, a celebration took place at Nelson Island School and included the Nelson Island High School Dancers, an Alaska Native drum and dance group. Later, the community took over the commons area of the high school with a potluck of Alaska Native foods, including seal, moose and goose soups, herring roe served with seal oil and baked salmon.
Robert Pitka, tribal administrator for Nunakauyak Traditional Council, hopes the takeaway message for the rest of the nation is of Yup’ik pride.
“We are Yup’ik people and that the world will see that we are very strong in our culture and our traditions and that our Yup’ik language is very strong,” he said.
For Chimiugak, she has concerns about climate change and what it might do to future generations of subsistence hunters and fishers in the community, and what it will do to the fish and animals. She talked about it with others at the celebration.
“She’s sad about the future,” he eldest son Paul said.
Chimiugak was born just after the start of the Great Depression in the middle of nowhere in western Alaska, her daughter Katie Schwartz of Springfield, Missouri, said. Lizzie was one of 10 siblings born to her parents, who lived a nomadic lifestyle and traveled with two or three other families that would migrate together, her son said.
Lizzie and her 101-year-old sister from Nightmute, Alaska, survive.
In 1947 Lizzie married George Chimiugak, and they eventually settled in Toksook Bay after the town was founded in 1964 by residents of nearby Nightmute. There are five surviving children.
He worked maintenance at the airport. She did janitorial work at the old medical clinic and babysat.
Like other wives, she cleaned fish, tanned hides and even rendered seal oil after her husband came home from fishing or hunting. Her husband died about 30 years ago.
She is also a woman of strong Catholic faith, and told her son that she saved his life by praying over him after he contracted polio.
For her own hobbies, she weaved baskets from grass and remains a member of the Alaska Native dance group that performed Tuesday. She dances in her wheelchair.
She taught children manners and responsibility and continued the oral tradition of telling them stories with a storyknife.
Chimiugak used a knife in the mud to illustrate her stories to schoolchildren. She drew figures for people or homes. At the end of the story, she’d use the knife to wipe away the pictures and start the next story with a clean slate of mud.
“She’s a great teacher, you know, giving us reminders of how we’re supposed to be, taking care of subsistence and taking care of our family and respecting our parents,” her granddaughter Alice Tulik said. “That’s how she would give us advice.”