For Canadian Denise Oosterveld, a recent vacation to Florida with her family left her scarred for life.
“It was very scary,” said the Woodstock, Ont., mother.
Oosterveld was paddleboarding with her sister at Ormond Beach on April 11 when she was bitten by a shark.
“I was trying to catch a wave and fell. When I tried to put myself onto the board, the shark bit my leg,” she recalled.
She wasn’t bitten once – but twice. One of the bites reached into her leg bone.
“At the time I was in shock, I was not responding anymore. My sister was holding me on the board, calling my husband for help.”
Kevin Oosterveld was on the beach with their two children when he heard screams for help and raced into the water.
“I started pushing her into shore. The scariest moment for me was when I looked up and saw my daughter and son crying. It was pretty hard on them,” he said.
What’s even harder than the shark attack was finding out later that Denise was pregnant at the time. Her baby did not survive.
“I don’t know if it was the trauma, the pain, or the medication I was taking. That was more painful than the shark bite,” Oosterveld struggled to say through tears.
Shark attacks are rare. According to the University of Florida, the likelihood of being killed by lightning is 75 times higher than the likelihood of getting attacked by a shark.
When attacks do occur, it’s almost always a case of mistaken identity.
“A paddleboarder can look like a turtle or a seal. For a shark, they think, ‘That’s on my menu, I’m going to take a bite.’ But after they take a bite, they realize, ‘That’s not my food,'” explained Martyna Pietkiewicz with the AquaSub Scuba Diving Centre in Richmond Hill.
“Those are accidents. Animals are not after people. That’s their environment,” Pietkiewicz added.
Despite the harrowing incident that resulted in over thirty sutures to her leg, Oosterveld is not shying away from the ocean.
“I love the water. I don’t know if that’s going to stop me.”