He suffered a life-threatening shark attack on Sunday in North Carolina, but amputee Hunter Treschl, 16, vows to “fight and live a normal life with the cards I’ve been dealt.” (Photo: New Hanover Regional Medical Center/AP Photo).
After what he endured — a horrific, out-of-nowhere shark attack in waist-deep North Carolina waters on Sunday, which cost him an arm — no one would blame 16-year-old Hunter Treschl for feeling sorry for himself. But when the Colorado Springs, Colo. teen opened up about the traumatic experience on Tuesday evening, what he showed instead was incredible perspective and truly inspiring resilience.
Recalling the incident from his hospital bed at the New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, Treschl told a video crew at the hospital that the attack, which happened while he was on vacation, took him totally by surprise. “I thought it felt like a big fish, and I started moving away,” he said. “And then the shark bit my arm, off.”
The Oak Island, North Carolina beach where the shark attacks occurred. (Photo: Chuck Burton/AP Photo).
After the attack — about an hour after 12-year-old Kiersten Yow was bitten, just two miles away — Trechl had to have his left arm amputated below the shoulder. (According to the Associated Press, it isn’t known if the same shark was responsible for both attacks). Doctors “fixed my arm up,” Treschl shared. “Did a pretty good job of it, too, from what I hear. It feels good.“
Bystanders put Yow in a tourniquet after the shark attack. (Steve Bouser/The Pilot, Southern Pines, N.C. via AP).
And Treschl intends to continue to keep feeling good. “So, I kind of have two options,” he explained. “I can try to live my life the way I was and make an effort to do that even though I don’t have an arm, or I can kind of just let this be completely debilitating. Out of those two, there’s really only one that I would choose to do, and that’s to try and fight and live a normal life with the cards I’ve been dealt.”
Building Resilience in Children and Teens author Dr. Kenneth R. Ginsburg tells Yahoo Parenting that Treschl’s saga is “a perfect story to highlight the strength of teenagers.” As an expert in resilience, the professor of pediatrics in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine says, “I can’t improve on his quote. This is clearly a very special kid.”
But Ginsburg is quick to note that there are remarkable teenagers all around us, to whom we often don’t give credit. “So many teens are special and we don’t notice,” he says. “It’s wonderful to hold up this kid, but when you look at the one in your living room, you might find wisdom and strength there, too, that you didn’t know existed.”
To foster a positive attitude in kids that can help them overcome any setback, day-to-day, Ginsburg encourages parents to “love your kid without condition and hold them to high expectations of seeing the goodness in themselves.” Children of all ages, he adds, “will rise to the expectations that you set for them.”
After a crisis, there are even more specific ways parents can help children heal with a positive attitude. With the following little tips, Ginsburg says moms and dads can make a big difference in the days following any traumatic event:
Remember that no reaction is wrong.
“Don’t force a brave face on a child,” he says. “That prevents them from grieving whatever loss it is that they may be experiencing.”
Let kids know that there’s a team behind them.
“When something bad happens to a child, or anyone for that matter, it’s important to let them know that they won’t have to go through it alone,” says Ginsburg.
Make yourself be really OK.
“Just like when your 2-year-old would look back at you to know whether that skinned knee they just got is something to be upset about, kids and teens take cues from your reaction, as well,” he says, noting that it’s essential to not change your perception of your kid after a traumatic event. “Never see your child as broken.”
Help the child understand that with effort and perseverance, he or she can get through anything.
“Life is never a straight path, and we all take twists and turns when obstacles come up in our lives,” says Ginsburg. “Sometimes, the altered direction leads us to something amazing that prepares us to make our greatest contribution to the world.”
Encourage them to talk with a therapist.
“Make it clear that as their body heals, they will need support in that healing from doctors, nurses, and physical therapists, as well as someone who can help their mind be strong to overcome the stress of the situation,” he says. “It’s a sign of great strength to get the emotional and behavioral support to help you get through tough times.”
Believe that good can come from terrible things.
“It’s important to believe, yourself, that although a situation may be challenging, even tragic, the child you are raising may be a stronger, more compassionate adult as a result of the challenge,” he says. “Kids with chronic diseases and those who have survived trauma and abuse are some of the most compassionate, strong people I know,” he notes. “They have life in perspective and have learned what matters.”