What was supposed to be a romantic getaway turned into trouble in paradise when my father, Luis Hernandez, 48, of Deerfield Beach, Florida, was attacked by a seven-foot Bull shark on May 6th, 2009. The Hernandez couple was staying at a resort in the Exumas in the Bahamas and had only been there for one day before the attack happened. Hernandez was spear fishing at the local reef near the Elizabeth Harbour when he caught a four pound grouper. Obviously, the grouper began to profusely bleed and the next thing he knew, the scent had attracted an unwanted visitor.
With his adrenaline rushing, the only thing he could think to do was to shoo off the shark and begin to back-peddle in the water towards his rented Boston Whaler that was about thirty meters away. To his temporary relief, the shark swam off into the blue, but came back too soon and clamped down on his right forearm. “It felt as though a torpedo hit my body,” Hernandez said when he was interviewed in his hospital room in the Jackson Memorial Hospital on May 15th, 2009.
He mentioned that the initial impact with the shark sent him hurling out of the water and he tried to pry the shark’s mouth open with his left hand and cut his middle finger in the process. Hernandez struggled with the seven foot monster for about thirty seconds, punching its nose and hitting it as hard as he could. The shark let go and apparently went away, giving Hernandez enough time to yell “Shark! Shark!” to his wife who was on the rented boat.
Marlene Hernandez, 46, quickly lifted the anchor and drove full speed to where he was, and then the shark struck a second time. The shark had let go and done a circle around him, coming back for seconds in the same exact spot he had attacked him before. Hernandez saw strips of his own muscle hanging off of his bare radius bone. Miraculously, his wife pulled him out of the water as the second attack was happening and on to the boat where she then used a towel as a tourniquet around his upper arm to stop the bleeding.
His wife bravely sped the boat away back to the marina and as he was about to lose consciousness, he radioed into the emergency channel on the boat yelling, “Mayday, mayday, shark attack!” By the time they had reached the marina, the ambulance was waiting and friendly locals helped Marlene carry Luis off the boat on to dry land. He was the immediately taken to the local clinic on the island of Exuma. At the clinic, Marlene heard one of the locals say, “Oh yes, that’s the shark that lives in the reef near Elizabeth Harbour,” meaning that the local population had knowledge that that Bull shark has always lived there, even though on the tourist snorkel charts, the reef next to the harbour is marked as a top snorkeling location. Also, shark feeding is very popular in the Bahamas and has trained the sharks to relate humans with food, but the corrupt government turns away from such accusations, putting the lives of tourists in grave danger. This concept may very well be linked to this particular shark attack.
The attention at the clinic would not suffice for Hernandez’s critical wound, so he had to be flown on an airplane ambulance to the main hospital in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas. The nurses that helped him transition on to the airplane were very helpful and attentive, but this did not hold true for what he was about to encounter at the hospital in Nassau. When he was there, the treatment of the hospital staff was reportedly very poor and inhumane as the billing administrator refused him entrance into the operating room before he paid the hefty bill for the medicines and operation he was about to receive. His condition did not seem to improve much as all they could do was bandage his large wound, so he had to be flown again to another hospital, this time in the United States.
He is now recovering at the Jackson Memorial Hospital and has undergone five surgeries and has more still pending. The attention at the hospital, he says, has been excellent and the surgeons working on his arm are one of the best in the nation. It will take him at least about a year to recover and has lost well over more than half of the tissue in his right forearm. He might be able to regain almost full mobility after reconstructive and plastic surgery as well as plentiful physical therapy. Without his heroic wife, my mother, Marlene Hernandez, Luis would not be alive today to be able to tell his epic story.