Woman attacked by shark off Fort Lauderdale shares ordeal - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Woman attacked by shark off Fort Lauderdale shares ordeal

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22-year-old Jessica Vaughn 22-year-old Jessica Vaughn
Jessica Vaughn's shark bite Jessica Vaughn's shark bite

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (WSVN) -- A woman who was bitten in the leg by a shark while swimming off Fort Lauderdale said she is thankful to be alive and on the road to recovery.

Sitting in a wheelchair, a smiling Jessica Vaughn met with reporters at Broward Health Medical Center, Monday afternoon. "I feel so very lucky," she said. "It's true. I think about it. I can't believe it happened, especially me."

Sunday afternoon, the 22-year-old was inner tubing with a group of friends in the Intracoastal Waterway, near Bayshore Drive, when, she said, a shark bit down on her right leg as she was treading water. "I jump in, start swimming out to the tube, and I get hit by something," said Vaughn, "and then I realize that my leg is cut open. It was scary."

Vaughn said her friends quickly got her back on their boat and onto a nearby dock. "It felt like a punch, and I didn't notice the back of it until they pulled me up on the boat, and I could see teeth marks on the back," she said.

A man who heard screams for help called 911.

Caller: "It's a shark bite."

911 operator: "A shark bite?"

Caller: "Yeah. It looks like they have her leg tied up."

"We were thinking it's three to four foot, probably a bull shark," said Vaughn.

She was rushed to Broward Health Medical Center, where she underwent surgery. "It was probably the largest shark bite that I have seen," said Dr. Zoran Potparic, the plastic surgeon who operated on Vaughn.

Doctors said Vaughn is fortunate to be alive and will likely make a full recovery. "She was very lucky," said Potparic. "I mean, she had a relatively big wound, but mostly worrying the skin and muscles, nothing that would be worrying nerves or blood vessels."

Vaughn's sister said she has always known how to take care of herself. "My sister has always been tough, so it's hard seeing her laying in the hospital," said Emily Santalucia.

"She's amazing. She's a trouper. She's been tough through the whole thing," said Kim Alsina, Vaughn's mother.

Despite her frightening ordeal, Vaughn said she eventually plans to head back in the water. "I probably wouldn't go back in that type of water, but I definitely would still go back in the water," she said.

Doctors said they will be monitoring Vaughn over the next few days for any sort of infection.

Loved ones said Vaughn does not have health insurance. They have set up a GoFundMe account to help pay for her medical bills. If you would like to make a donation, log on to http://www.gofundme.com/9rujd0.

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