Shark attack victim doing 'remarkably well' after surgeries

Posted at 6:45 PM, May 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-05 21:45:09-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A Vista woman gravely injured last weekend in a San Onofre-area shark attack is "doing remarkably well" following several rounds of surgery, a supervising physician said Friday.

Leeanne Ericson, 35, has regained consciousness and is able to respond to questions by nodding or shaking her head, though she remains on a respirator, trauma surgeon Gail Tominaga told news crews during a briefing at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla.

"She will have a long recovery, but she is doing remarkably well (considering) her injuries," Tominaga said.

Ericson, a single mother of three, was swimming off the coast of San Onofre Beach at Camp Pendleton about an hour before sunset last Saturday when a shark tore off much of her right buttocks and thigh.

The victim's boyfriend and other witnesses, including a Marine Corps emergency-medical technician, provided emergency care, including a makeshift tourniquet, prior to the arrival of paramedics.

Members of Ericson's family attended the hospital update and provided a public statement thanking everyone who helped save her life -- the good Samaritans who hastened to aid her at the beach, lifeguards, civilian and military medics, and staffers at the Genesee Avenue trauma center where she was rushed in critical condition.

The message read to the assembled news crews by Tominaga, described Ericson's near-fatal shark encounter -- after which she almost drowned -- "a terrible tragedy" for her "and all of us who love and support her."

"But we know the situation could have been far graver had it not been for the number of emergency-response personnel and others who provided the care she needed and saved her life," the family stated.

Ericson has undergone two operations to clean up her wounds and control bleeding and will have "a few more," including a nerve graft, Tominaga told reporters. Doctors are doing everything they can to make her leg "as functional as possible," the surgeon said.

Mercy Air flight paramedic Mark Thomas told reporters that this incident was an eye opener.  "I am a surfer, kite surfer, I was a lifeguard previous to working for Mercy Air. I've spent quite a bit of time in the water, so it hit home."

Camp Pendleton Fire Capt. David Lewis echoed that. "You know, I believe we're all still decompressing. That's a spot where we all camp with our families; lots of us surf there in that exact same spot and it's something we've been fortunate to stay in touch with Dusty and our thoughts and prayers are with Leeanne and the family and that's all we're thinking about."

Ericson's family has set up a page to help defray her medical costs, with a target total of $200,000. As of this morning, the website had generated more than $66,000 for the cause.

Her employer, Pacific Marine Credit Union, also has established an account with which its customers can transfer money. Pacific Marine patrons can also donate in person at any of its locations, or by calling (760) 631-8700.