Woman Bit by Shark After Telling Grandson Not to Be Afraid of Them

·3 min read

Just when she thought it was safe to go back into the ocean, it really wasn't. Last month, Pittsburgh grandmother Karen Sites, 55, was visiting Myrtle Beach with her husband and grandchildren. She had just told her grandchildren not to be afraid of sharks when one swam up and bit her on the arm, leading to hundreds of stitches. It could have been a lot worse, but what happened was pretty terrifying. Read on to find out how Sites' reacted to the nightmarish encounter and how to avoid shark bites yourself. 

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Just After She Advised Her Grandchildren Not to Be Afraid…

It was just after noon on the first day of vacation. Sites were in waist-deep water with their grandkids, who kept asking if there were sharks in the ocean. "And I said, 'Oh, don't be afraid. It is so rare that anybody ever gets bit by a shark," she told The UK IndependentMoments later, a shark jumped out of the water and sank its teeth into Sites' arm. Her eight-year-old grandson, Brian, saw the whole thing from just 10 feet away. 

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"A Shark Attached to My Arm"

"I felt a sharp kind of intense pain on my right arm," said Sites. "And my first thought was, 'It's anything but a shark.'" At first, she thought she must have been stung by a jellyfish. Not quite: "I looked down, and there was a shark attached to my arm."

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"I Think I Was In Shock"

Sites said she kept pushing at the shark until it let go. ​​"I looked at my arm and saw the damage … and I think I was in shock, I didn't know what to do. I just walked out of the water," she told the Independent. "I kept saying, "I don't want to look at my arm, I don't want to look at my arm," because I didn't want to see it." Luckily, an ER employee who happened to be on the beach attended to Sites, washing her arm with bottled water before she was rushed to the hospital.

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Hundreds of Stitches Needed

Sites underwent surgery and received hundreds of stitches. Although she was discharged from the hospital a day later, she was told she may have some nerve and tendon damage. "I still have a long recovery ahead of me …It looks like [my ring finger] is on its way to being better," she told the Independent.  Stites' family decided to stay in Myrtle Beach for the week and even visited the same beach again. But her grandson Brian had changed his plans for the rest of the vacation: "I'll sit on the sand, but I ain't going in the water," he told the Associated Press. 

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How to Avoid Shark Bites

Shark attacks on humans are considered very rare. But more have been reported this summer, from New York to Florida. Warming waters may be bringing sharks closer to shore. Daniel Abel, a professor of Marine Science at Coastal Carolina University, offered some advice to WPED about how to avoid sharks: "Not to swim at dawn and dusk, there's not many people in the water then and some of the sharks are closer and feeding. Don't swim where there are schools of small fish offshore. Don't swim near where people are fishing near piers," he said.