A San Diego woman, critically wounded in a recent shark attack, is awake and able to answer questions with a nod of her head, according to one physician who is treating her.
On April 29, Leeanne Ericson was airlifted to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla after being attacked by a shark in the waters off San Onofre State Beach, near Camp Pendleton, in San Diego's North County.
Ericson’s family linked arms as they listened to the medical update from Gail Tominaga, M.D., a trauma surgeon who was there when Ericson was rushed to the hospital.
The surgeon said Ericson is still on a breathing tube but can respond to questions by nodding or shaking her head.
The young mother suffered significant injury to her right buttocks and upper right leg and significant blood loss, Tominaga said.
“She’s doing very well considering her critical condition,” she said.
Ericson has had two surgeries to clean up the wounds and to control bleeding. Further surgery will be needed to improve nerve and muscle use in the leg, Tominaga said.
“She will have a long recovery but she is doing remarkably well considering her injuries,” Tominaga said.
The fact that Ericson was young and healthy before the attack has helped her in her recovery, the surgeon said.
The shark attack took place at San Onofre State Beach, located off Interstate 5 at Basilone Road, about 3 miles south of San Clemente, California, and 58 miles north of downtown San Diego. The beach was closed to the public for several days following the shark attack, but reopened Wednesday.
According to authorities, Ericson was camping with her boyfriend when the couple decided to go in the water on the evening of April 29. Ericson swam while her boyfriend surfed next to her at a well-known spot at the beach.
The victim’s mother, Christine McKnerney-Leidle, said the couple saw a seal in the water and Ericson’s boyfriend turned to swim out to a wave. Just then, Ericson disappeared from the water’s surface.
The woman was attacked by a shark approximately 10 feet in length who ripped through the back of Ericson’s leg, tearing out all the muscle from her knee to her hip. The shark just missed the victim’s major arteries, McKnerney-Leidle said on Facebook.
As Ericson was dragged into the water, her lungs filled with foam and debris. She was airlifted to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla just before 6:30 p.m.
Ericson survived the shark attack, but her road to a full recovery will be painful and lengthy.
Doctors are now starting the process of reconstructing the victim’s leg.
“She’s not going to have a normal lower extremity but we are doing everything we can to make it as normal as possible,” Tominaga said.
The surgeon also credited those who rushed to help Ericson. They included Camp Pendleton Fire Department, California State Parks, Camp Pendleton Military Police and Mercy Air.
Ericson works for a local credit union, Pacific Marine Credit Union. The company has opened an account to collect donations to help the victim in her recovery. Donations can be made at any Pacific Marine Credit Union branch, or by mail. Checks can be made payable to:
C/O Pacific Marine Credit Union
1278 Rocky Point Drive
Oceanside, CA 92056
A GoFundMe page has also been set up for Ericson.
Last year, there were an estimated 59 shark attacks across the U.S., according to data collected by scientists at the University of Florida.