61-YEAR-OLD William Lytton lives to tell the tale of how he survived a vicious shark attack off of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, by punching the predator in the gills as it clamped down on his leg.
The attack happened on August 15 when Mr Lytton had been swimming in what he described as about “eight to 10 feet” of water.
All of a sudden, he felt an incredible pain shooting through his left leg and realised a shark had bitten into his leg.
He said: “I initially was terrified, but, really, there was no time to think.
“It doesn’t feel like I did anything heroic. A lot of this was luck.”
In his first interview since the attack, the neurologist from Scarsdale, New York, described how he threw a punch at the animal’s gills with his left hand, resulting in the shark fleeing.
Mr Lytton tore a couple of tendons with the force of his smack.
He credited nature documentaries with giving him the knowledge that gills are one of the most vulnerable parts of the shark’s frame.
Pulling together the energy to manage a few strong strokes to reach the shore, Mr Lytton shouted for help and was aided by off-duty nurses and other medical professionals.
His wife and two young daughters, who were also on the beach, were alerted.
Mr Lytton was airlifted to Tufts Medical Centre in Boston where he went into a two-day induced coma, underwent six surgeries and had almost 12 pints of blood pumped into his body.
“The pain was really excruciating,” he said.
“I remember the helicopter landing and then nothing for the next two days.”
The shark, fortunately, missed critical nerves and veins and did not leave major bone damage, though pieces of shark teeth were cleaned out of his wounds and his bandages cover “hundreds” of sutures used to stitch back together muscles and skin.
When asked about the appearance of his wounds, Mr Lytton said: “It looks very artistic.”
State biologists are now working to determine what type of shark was involved in the attack.
The last fatal attack to have happened in the state of Massachusetts was in 1936.
Mr Lytton, who is covered up with an arm cast and a brace around most of his leg, has said he won’t be rushing back for a swim in Massachusetts waters anytime soon.
“It’s kind of terrifying to think about it,” he said.
“I know it’s not the best thing to say, but I didn’t like sharks before, and like them even less now.”