Lucky and thankful, shark attack survivor Jon Hines feels anything but a victim.
The Dudley surfer, 34, instead sees himself as a winner after taking on a monster tiger shark at a remote Western Australian beach and surviving.
Ten weeks into a rehabilitation process which could last for more than four years, the civil engineer has broken his silence to thank the medical staff who saved his arm and the huge number of well-wishes he has received since the August 28 attack.
‘‘The message is: still alive, thank you and we are moving on,’’ Mr Hines said yesterday.
‘‘Newcastle is such a great spot, where everyone gets behind something like this.
‘‘Family, friends, the surfing fraternity have just been absolutely fantastic in the support that they have given me.’’
Mr Hines is reluctant to speak about the life-and-death battle he had at the iconic surfing break at Red Bluff, nearly 1000kilometres north of Perth, for fear he could be branded a ‘‘big noter’’.
But he has talked about knowing he had to go into attack mode if he was to survive a second charge from the shark after it had already bitten him as he wiped out on a wave near the reef.
‘‘It was survival mode. Fight or flight, I chose fight and it was a fight all right – it will be the biggest fight of my life,’’ he said.
‘‘It not only got me once but it got me twice and they say if a shark bites you once it’s accidental, it thinks you’re food.
‘‘But if it bites you twice it is trying to eat you.’’
Mr Hines’ tale of survival is even more extraordinary when it is revealed what he had to endure, after being bitten on the stomach and right arm, just to get to some medical attention. With massive gashes which would later need about 1000 stitches, Mr Hines was first dragged from the surf by a legendary big-wave surfer nicknamed Camel.
Surfers carried him about 500 metres on his board, across limestone pinnacles and through spinifex needles which caused their feet to bleed, and to camp. From there, brother Nathan held a tourniquet on his arm and mate Nigel Anderson held in the stomach wound as they drove along a remote dirt road towards help. They met an ambulance which took Mr Hines to Carnarvon Hospital before he was flown by the Royal Flying Doctors Service to Royal Perth Hospital for emergency surgery.
‘‘To be perfectly honest, the whole journey has been as good as it could have gone in regards to the treatment and the way people have helped me out,’’ he said.
‘‘There was a myriad things that did [save my life]. There was a lot of things that could have gone the other way which could have ended it up with a different result.
‘‘It’s the combined effort of everybody and I need to appreciate that it wasn’t just one of these guys, it was everyone’s effort.’’
Mr Hines revealed how he expected to wake up without his right arm after seeing the amount of damage, praising the surgeons who worked for hours to keep it attached.
‘‘When you are in that position and you are wanting to survive, it is your first instinct and if it means at the loss of something else, you are willing to take that sacrifice I suppose. I think it is a miracle and it is a wonder of the surgeons that it is still there,’’ he said.
After the first of six operations to his arm, Mr Hines began the slow rehabilitation process. Doctors closed the wounds using 174 external stitches and more than 400 internal stitches to his stomach, as well as 96 external stitches and a further 300 internal stitches.
He underwent more than two months of intensive rehabilitation at Perth before flying home.
There will be another operation in about 12 months after doctors decided to only reattach severed ligaments to allow them to strengthen before looking at the tendon and muscle damage.
Mr Hines is hoping he will get a significant amount of movement back, but only after about four years of constant work. He has returned to work part-time and is moving on.
‘‘I feel like I have won – I have fought a shark and I have won.’’
‘‘I have always enjoyed life and I hope I continue to enjoy life rather than letting it take over,’’ he said.
‘‘It is what it is and I am going to get as much out of it as possible and I am determined to do that.’’
That includes possibly jumping back into the water with his wife, Bridget, at some stage.
Mr Hines has also been in contact with Glen ‘‘Lenny’’ Folkard, who was attacked by a bull shark while surfing at Redhead Beach and lives only about 100metres from Mr Hines’ parents home, and other shark attack survivors.
‘‘They have actually got a bit of a group going on so Lenny welcomed me to the group and said it was exclusive.’’ I just said: ‘but the initiation is a bit of a bitch’.’’
But he is looking at the positives, and knows things could have been a whole lot worse.
‘‘I am lucky. Lucky and thankful and positive moving forward is my message.’’