US

Donations Pour in From Across the Nation for Teen Shark Attack Survivor Paige Winter

By Richard Szabo

The family of a North Carolina teenager who survived a horrific shark attack on June 2 has been overwhelmed by people’s generosity.

A Gofundme page has collected more than 1,400 donations to bring a speedy recovery for Paige Winter, 17, who lost her left leg at thigh level after a shark attacked her while swimming at Fort Macon State Park, almost 290 miles east of Charlotte.

The fundraiser has already collected more than $68,000 in the first two weeks, with an ultimate goal of raising $150,000. The money will be used to pay for surgery, physical therapy, prosthetics, recovery, and the income father Charlie, 39, lost from taking time off work.

“As family friends, we sit here hoping we can do something that could bring just a tiny bit of relief that may assist with Paige’s road to recovery,” Prayers for Paige organizer Jenny Garcia wrote. “If you guys are able, please donate whatever you can to Charlie and Paige … no donation is too small.”

Garcia, who is collecting donations on behalf of the family, confirmed Paige has had surgery and is now recovering.

“Per Marcy Winter (Paige’s Mom) Paige is out of surgery and awake, she’s still pretty groggy but cracking jokes,” Garcia said. “She wants everyone to know that sharks are still good people.”

Paige is confident she will eventually be able to lead a normal life.

“I am still going to do all of the stuff they can do; I am going to be able to walk; I am going to be able to write; I am going to be able to do just kind of like anything the same old Paigey,” she said in a video released to media.

She hopes her story can help make a positive difference even though she will have a disability for the rest of her life.

“I think I can transform this into something good for me and good for sharks, and the environment too, that’s just what I really want,” she said. “Instead of being something like, ‘Oh how tragic, a 17-year-old lost her leg’—no, a 17-year-old lost her leg and we’re poppin’.”

Paige is keen to portray sharks in a positive light through the important role they play in the ocean.

“Sharks are still good people and that is just kind of the truth,” she said. “They are still so good and they are so cool.”

The video’s producer Vidant Health said they expect Paige to make a significant recovery.

“She will require a very long recovery time, extensive rehabilitation, and therapy,” Vidant Acute Care Surgery Chief Eric Toschlog said in a press conference. “I have talked to her about this already and it will be six months, most likely a year of rehabilitation and therapy before she has significant function back.”

The teen said she is comforted to know she will be able to share her experiences with other shark attack survivors.

“It really helps to know that I am not alone in this situation [and] there are other survivors of shark bites,” she said. “It is really nice to know there is someone to talk to who is also on the same wavelength as me.”

Father Charlie said he was really impressed by his daughter’s level-headed attitude toward the shark attack and her recovery.

“The shark took her leg but it did not take her spirit,” he said at the press conference. “She knows it is going to be a challenge but she welcomes it and will take it with a smile on her face and she is not going to fail.”

Charlie, a paramedic with 15 years of experience, said he had never seen a victim stay so calm.

“She stayed calm for the whole time,” he said. “She never screamed, she never cried, she was completely calm … the only thing she said was, ‘Can I please go to the hospital now?’ She is a tough little thing.”

The father promised to support Paige throughout her recovery.

“I won’t let her fail, this team [of health professionals] won’t let her fail,” he said. “Paige is going to do great, Paige is destined for great things.”

He thanked everyone who offered support from across the United States.

“There is nothing I can say to you right now that can possibly show how much I appreciate everybody [and] everything,” Charlie said. “Every thought, every prayer, everything everyone has been trying to do to help … I can’t thank you enough.”