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California shark attack victim doing ‘remarkably well’

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A woman attacked by a shark at a Southern California beach remained in critical condition on Friday, but a trauma surgeon said she is doing “remarkably well” and doctors are hopeful she’ll be able to use her badly damaged leg again.

Leeanne Ericson was out of a medical coma but was using a breathing tube. She was able to answer questions by nodding her head, said Dr. Gail Tominaga during a news conference at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla.

The 35-year-old mother of three from Vista was swimming at San Onofre State Beach near Camp Pendleton on Saturday when she was bitten in the right buttock and upper right leg. The 10-foot shark tore through the muscle to the bone, removing a large chunk of her thigh.

Ericson lost a lot of blood and inhaled seawater.

Her boyfriend, who was surfing next to her, and others got her to shore. Emergency responders from the nearby Camp Pendleton Marine Base came to her aid.

Bystanders, including an off-duty emergency medical technician, already had taken “all the appropriate steps to save her life,” Camp Pendleton Fire Department Capt. David Lewis said.

“Somebody had used towels and applied direct pressure. Somebody else … used a surfboard leash as a tourniquet,” he said. “Her boyfriend Dusty was keeping her calm, telling her that he loved her, and keeping her alert.”

In a statement read by the surgeon, Ericson’s family thanked those who helped Ericson for saving her life and said they had received well wishes from around the world.

Ericson is doing “remarkably well,” but she faces a long recovery, Tominaga said.

Doctors are hopeful she’ll be able to use her leg again. Ericson has had several operations, and more are planned to repair nerves and muscles in her leg.

“She’s not going to have a normal lower extremity. But we are doing everything we can to make it as normal as possible,” Tominaga said.

A GoFundMe page set up by her mother to raise money for medical expenses had received about $68,000 in donations. Ericson’s employer, Pacific Marine Credit Union, also has an account for donations.

While shark sightings are not uncommon along the California coast, attacks are rare and fatalities even more so.

Maria Korcsmaros was training for an ironman competition when she was bitten last May off the coast of nearby Newport Beach. She recovered and swam in a triathlete competition in San Diego last October.

The last fatal attack in San Diego County occurred in 2008. Dave Martin, 66, died after he was bitten on the legs by a 14-foot great white shark.

But there have been reports of more sharks than usual at certain Southern California areas, including San Onofre, Huntington Beach, the Santa Monica Bay and Ventura.

There were 120 unprovoked shark attacks in California from 1926 to 2016, according to the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

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