Lucas Cruz was Lobster Diving in the Keys When the Attack Happened
The trauma team at Kendall Regional Medical Center recently saved 15-year-old Lucas Cruz after a shark bit him. The teen was lobster diving off of Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo on Aug. 7, 2021, when the attack happened. He was on his annual trip with family for his birthday. Experts believe he was bit by a bull shark.
“I kind of felt the push and pull while I was in the water, and I thought a boat hit me,” Cruz recounts to WSVN. “When I looked up and saw there was no boat, that’s when I knew I was bit by a shark.”
His mother, Michelle Lopez, says, “He was yelling ‘shark! Shark!’ and there was blood everywhere; then that’s when I saw the back of his calf totally missing.”
Lucas was airlifted by fire rescue to Kendall Regional Medical Center, where the trauma team immediately began working on him. Lucas had lost 70% of his blood and was “as white as a sheet” upon arrival. He suffered three massive wounds to his two legs – one leg had a massive wound in the upper thigh and the other leg had wounds on his calf and his ankle. The bite went all the way to the bone and in one wound, severed his Achilles tendon.
It took a group of four surgeons and multiple doctors of different disciplines to reconstruct Lucas. On scene to take Lucas in was Dr. Mark McKenney, Chief of Medical for the Trauma Center, alongside Dr. Obteene Azimi-Ghomi.
They were later joined by Dr. Haaris Mir, reconstructive plastic surgeon, comprehensive wound specialist and Chief of Burn Care at Kendall Regional; Dr. Scott Sandilands, orthopedic trauma surgeon; and Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, a vascular surgeon. Dr. Rizal Lim, reconstructive surgeon and part of Kendall Regional’s burn team, was also present for additional operations. Both Dr. Mir and Dr. Lim are with Burn and Reconstructive Centers of America, who practice out of Kendall Regional.
The team worked collaboratively to reconstruct Lucas, piece by piece, which ultimately led him to where he is today. Dr. Mir worked on reconstruction of the tissue and skin – the biggest job due to the severity of the damage; Dr. Sandilands worked on recovering his Achilles tendon; and Dr. Johnson was there to support with vascular needs and to reconnect blood vessels.
“Initially, I thought he had multiple bites,” said Dr. Mir, “but after talking to him, he said he was only bitten once. So if a shark grabbed both his legs, from an ankle to the top of his thigh, that is about four feet, and it would tell you just how big the jaw was.”
After four hours-long surgeries and 11 days in Kendall Regional’s pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), Lucas is back at home recovering. He currently uses a wheelchair and a walker to get around, and works with a physical therapist three times a week. Doctors say his recovery has been swift considering the damage done by the shark.
For more information about Kendall Regional Medical Center and the trauma team, visit https://kendallmed.com/specialties/trauma-center.