Teen survives Atlantic Ocean shark attack
An Indiana teen is telling the tale of survival in the face of a shark attack.
Alex Stamm has never seen "Jaws." The 1975 film was made almost 20 years before he was born. Still, Alex is one of the few people his age that has an understanding that goes beyond Hollywood.
In 2010, he was 17 years old and on a summer vacation trip to Isle of Palms, South Carolina. On the first day, he, his family, and friends and their families dropped their bags in their condos and went to the beach.
"We kind of went to the beach around one o'clock and that was the first time we were actually in the ocean with our bathing suits on, building sand castles," he said. "The sun was shining. It was a great day."
Around four o'clock, Alex stepped into the surf to cool down. He was in the water for less than 10 minutes before it happened.
"Out of nowhere, I just feel this sharp pressure on my leg," he said. "Like someone just punched me in my leg."
He looked down in the water and saw a silvery shark slither away, a picture of its dorsal fin stuck in his mind. The shark was about seven feet long.
The odds of what happened to Alex are 1-in-11,000,000. But, in the moment, he felt the adrenaline surge. He knew he had to get out of the water, which was now a swirling cloud of purple and red. He was losing a tremendous amount of blood.
The boy who beat the odds to get attacked by a shark, suddenly had the odds on his side. His friend's mother is a nurse and began applying pressure to his wound to stop the blood flow. Two emergency room doctors were just a few blankets down on the beach. They stepped up and stabilized Alex until an ambulance arrived 45 minutes later.
As he traveled to the hospital, Alex struggled to stay awake and engaged.
"I never did black out, but I was losing blood and I was getting more and more dizzy. I've passed out before, I just thought I was passing out again," Stamm said.
He didn't find out until later that he had lost a dangerous amount of blood.
"Later in the surgery room, the doctor said 'You were actually really close to dying'," he said. "At the time, I didn't think anything of it."
BACK TO THE DRINK
Stamm has been back in the ocean since the shark attack, for very short periods of time, and tries to put it out of his mind, but the jagged scar he has on his leg reminds him of what he survived in what was supposed to be a carefree day at the beach.
Ironically, he is not angry at his attacker. He says he was in the shark's backyard, which was just trying to protect its territory. Instead, he focuses on the story he has to tell.
And it's a good one.
"The first time I meet people, it's actually a really good icebreaker, a funny story to tell. I tell it with jokes, of course, and I play it up a little bit for the ladies," Stamm said.
This fall, he will begin trying out his story on the ladies of Purdue University. He will be an engineering student there and his dorm room will include a memento that few students can claim - a shark's jaw, given to him by his dad, as a reminder that Alex is a survivor.
After what he's come through, freshman physics and mechanical engineering classes should be "a day at the beach."