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Teen Cheerleader Who Survived Shark Attack Takes First Steps After Leg Amputation: ‘Such a Warrior’

Teen Cheerleader Who Survived Shark Attack Takes First Steps After Leg Amputation: 'Such a Warrior'

A Florida teen who was attacked by a shark is on the road to recovery.

Addison Bethea, 17, was seriously injured on June 30 when she was bitten by a large shark while searching for scallops near Keaton Beach.

“She suffered devastating injury to her upper right leg, including the loss of her quadriceps, the four muscles in the front of the thigh that work together to keep the kneecap stable and allow for lower leg extension,” Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare wrote on Facebook earlier this week, sharing that the teen would need to have her right leg amputated above her knee

And just one day after the successful operation, Addison took her first steps with the use of a walker.

On July 7, a video of Addison’s big moment at the hospital was shared on a Facebook page started by her family.  

“Our girl took her first steps today and managed to make it all the way down the hallway!” her family wrote in the post on the “Fight Like Addison” page. “She is such a warrior, nothing is going to stop her from gaining back her life.” 

The hospital where Addison is being treated went on to share the video on their own Facebook page, writing “We’re so proud of you, Addison!” 

The hospital previously shared that the amputation will allow the teen “to use a prosthesis for her lower leg.”

“Surgeons will amputate the leg just above the knee and take muscular tissue and skin from the lower leg to wrap around Addison’s femur, reconstructing the upper leg,” the hospital explained in a news release.

Addison Bethea

Addison Bethea
Addison Bethea
| Credit: Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare

Although Addison “got a little emotional” when she first found out about the surgery, her mother, Michelle Murphy, told the hospital that her daughter knew it was “her best path forward.”

“She’s embracing it and trying to keep a positive outlook,” Michelle shared in a statement with the hospital earlier this week.

RELATED VIDEO: ‘I Lost 70% Of My Blood’: Meet the Teenage Boy Attacked by a Shark And Lived Tell About It

Speaking out for the first time following the attack, Addison said that once the initial shock of what had happened passed, she began trying to get the shark to release her. 

“I knew that with sharks you’re supposed to punch them in the nose to get them off of you,” she told CNN. Although she was unable to do that, she did start “socking it in the face and then poked its eyes.” 

Fortunately, her brother was nearby.

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After hearing his sister “make a noise almost like something scared her,” Rhett Willingham, a firefighter/EMT, quickly rushed into action.

“I sat up and looked and didn’t see her,” he told CNN. “Then she came up from the water and I saw the shark and the blood and all that, then I swam over there and got (the shark) off.” 

Afterwards, he was able to get his sister to safety on a nearby boat and helped apply a tourniquet to her wound while they waited for her to be airlifted to the hospital. 

“He’s always been kind of like a hero to me,” Addison recalled. “I knew once I was in trouble, he said he would get me out. He promised. So I expected nothing less.”

Although she still has a long road ahead of her, Addison’s family feels grateful for where she’s at in her recovery.

“It’s been a rough week on all of us but today starts the next steps for Addison to get back to a normal life. I finally got a chance to exhale and see she is going to overcome all that has happened,” her mom wrote in a social media post on Thursday, the day Addison took her first steps.

“God blessed us by allowing Addison to live and we will never lose focus on that gift,” she added.  

Medical Expenses for Addison Bethea, shark attack

Medical Expenses for Addison Bethea, shark attack
Addison Bethea
| Credit: Gofundme

As her journey to recovery continues, Addison “will require extensive rehabilitation,” the hospital shared in an update this week, “but her family says she is staying upbeat and strong. She says she will be back in the ocean once she heals.”

“Addison is a cheerleader and tennis player and is in excellent physical condition,” they continued. “Her doctors say her vital signs continue to remain strong, and she is expected to do well in her surgery and recovery.”

Added her father in a statement on Thursday: “The surgeons and the medical staff can’t get enough praise from us for the wonderful care of our baby girl.” 

A GoFundMe has been created to raise funds to cover her medical expenses following the accident. Those interested in donating can do so here.