Teen survives Florida shark attack but loses hand and leg: ‘I made it’

The mother of a Florida teen who lost her leg and hand in a shark attack recently said the girl’s first words after waking up from her brutal ordeal were: “I made it”.

Lulu Gribbin, from Mountain Brook, Alabama, was one of three people who were injured in a spate of shark attacks Friday at Rosemary beach in Florida’s Walton county, in the western part of the state.

Lulu’s mother, Ann Blair Gribbin, provided details about the attack, the aftermath and the teen’s medical condition in a post on the website CaringBridge.

Gribbin said she and Lulu were on their first mother-daughter trip along with the teen’s twin sister, Ellie, as well as friends. Lulu was with friends on a sand bar in waist-high water, looking for sand dollars, when a shark bit her hand and leg on Friday afternoon.

A man and a boy who noticed Lulu was hurt pulled her out of the water, carrying her to the shore.

Gribbin said she was at another part of the beach, heard there was a shark and saw a group of people standing over someone on the shore. She discovered it was her daughter after running down.

“I saw her wounds on her leg and started to scream,” Gribbin wrote. “She was lifeless her eyes closed mouth white and pale. The wound on her leg or all that was left of her leg was something out of a movie.”

Gribbin said first responders airlifted Lulu to a hospital in Pensacola, Florida, and she was immediately brought into surgery.

Doctors connected the teen to a ventilator which helped her breathe as she recovered in the hospital.

The attack not only cost Lulu two-thirds of the blood in her body and her left hand, Gribbin wrote. Doctors also amputated a significant part of Lulu’s right leg.

Gribbin said doctors expected her to be on the ventilator for about a week. But Lulu began breathing on her own Saturday, and doctors removed her from the ventilator.

“This was a first big step,” Gribbin wrote. “Once she was settled her first words to us were, ‘I made it.’ And boy she did.”

The teen is scheduled to undergo multiple surgeries in the coming weeks as she continues recovering physically from an attack her mother described as life-changing.

Meanwhile, the local news outlet WKRG interviewed a pair of doctors and longtime friends who were vacationing together with their families at the time of Lulu Gribbin’s attack – and ultimately helped rescue her.

Mohammad Ali and Ryan Forbess recounted boogie boarding with their children in the water, hearing people panicking on the shore and heading toward the commotion. Forbess said he grasped the magnitude of the situation when he “saw cloudy red water” from the shark attack after getting back to the shore.

The two physicians said their medical training kicked in immediately, and they joined some emergency medical technicians and trauma nurses who were also on vacation and had gone over to help. “When I looked down at her and saw the severity of the injury, I realized that anybody with any kind of medical knowledge needed to help,” Ali told WKRG.

Ali, Forbess and the rest of the group tied tourniquets as well as applied pressure on Gribbin’s leg and hands in a measured but urgent effort to save the girl from dying.

“We might’ve as well worked with them for years,” Forbess said. “It was amazing. Kind of – it was God’s will that everyone was there to help at the same time.”

Forbess and Ali said they spoke to Gribbin’s family after she had been admitted to the hospital and were relieved to learn Lulu had survived.

Gribbin wrote that she was “eternally grateful” for Ali, Forbess and the others who gave vital first aid to her daughter.

Despite the disproportionate amount of media coverage that they generate when they do occur, shark attacks are relatively rare, according to experts.

There were 69 shark bites across the world in 2023 that were considered to be unprovoked, according to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File. Most were in the US and in Florida.

Ten of those 2023 shark attacks were deadly, which was higher than the recent annual average of six but was still lower than the number of fatalities reported in 2011, the file’s data showed.

The shark which attacked Lulu also bit her friend’s foot. The friend was treated at another local hospital for what was characterized as a flesh wound.

The third shark attack victim Friday was a 45-year-old woman who was bit while swimming at Walton’s Watersound beach.

Emergency responders airlifted the woman to a hospital after suffering “significant trauma” to her mid-section, according to a Walton sheriff’s office spokesperson. Part of her left arm was amputated following the attack.

The Guardian