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"It spit me out": Man bitten by great white shark tells how he survived

Man hospitalized after California shark attack
Man hospitalized after California shark attack 00:23

Pacific Grove, Calif. — A man who was bitten by a great white shark off the central California coast last month was released from the hospital Wednesday.

Steve Bruemmer, 62, was released from Natividad Medical Center in Salinas three weeks after the shark bit him as he swam off Pacific Grove near Monterey, the hospital said.

Bruemmer was applauded by hospital workers as he left in a wheelchair, wearing a blue T-shirt emblazoned with the words: "Shark Attack Survivor."

In a video supplied by the medical center, Bruemmer said from his hospital bed that the shark bit him across his thighs and abdomen and then "it spit me out."

"I'm not a seal," said Bruemmer, a retired Monterey Peninsula College professor. "It took me for a seal. We're not their food."

Steve Bruemmer in his bed in Natividad Medical Center in Salinas, California shortly before his release on July 13, 2022, three weeks after he was bitten by a great white shark while swimming off the central California coast. Natividad Medical Center in Salinas, California / Cypress Studio

"It was looking at me, right next to me," he said. "I thought it could bite me again so I pushed it with my hand and I kicked at it with my foot and it left."

The shark came within a millimeter of severing a major artery, Nicholas Rottler, a trauma surgeon at the medical center, told KSBW-TV a day after the June 22 attack.

However, no major damage was done to his bones or organs.

"It could've been much, much worse — he could've not made it out of the water," Rottler said.

After he cried out for help, Bruemmer said he was rescued by two standup paddleboarders - a nurse and a police officer - who came over, and a surfer who took two boards from the beach to reach him.

"The three of them in the bloody water got me up onto the surfboard and pulled me into the beach" despite the possibility that the shark was still circling, Bruemmer said, calling them heroes.

Bruemmer said he was taken to a trauma center for surgery and received 28 units of blood. He thanked the medical workers and the blood donors for saving his life.

"I'm going home now," he said, getting emotional, but "I want to thank Natividad, and the Good Samaritans, and the people on the beach, and that lead-footed ambulance driver. Without all of you, I don't make it. And oh the blood donors -- thank you so much. I'm going home. I'm gonna recover and I'm gonna be OK — thanks to you all."

Shark attacks in California are rare. However, Tomas Butterfield, 42, of Sacramento was killed in a shark attack in Morro Bay in central California last Christmas Eve.

It was the only unprovoked fatal shark attack in the United States last year.

The area was sectioned off for beachgoers following the incident last month. Police used an aerial drone to look for the shark but didn't spot it.

Bruemmer is an experienced swimmer and Rottler said this helped in his recovery. "Being in really good physical condition before the shark bite definitely made his functional recovery easier. His upper body strength and cardiac endurance allowed him to improve faster than most patients," Rottler said.

In the video released by Natividad Medical Center on Wednesday, Bruemmer continuously thanked the bystanders who helped him and the medical team for saving his life.

"Heroes. How do you get into the bloody water, with maybe a shark circling beneath you to save a stranger? They're amazing." 

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