Belpre man recovers from shark bite | News, Sports, Employment

Belpre resident Connor Baker (center) was at Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach last week after being bitten by a shark. He had to undergo surgery to repair four severed tendons. He is pictured with his girlfriend Haley Moore and brother Hunter Moore, who helped him out of the water immediately after the incident. (Photo provided)

BELPRE — A Belpre man was bitten by a shark during a recent trip to Florida.

Connor Baker, 21, of Belpre, returned home recovering after a July 4 encounter with a shark while in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, left him with four severed tendons in his right foot.

Baker was on vacation at the beach with his mother, his girlfriend, his brother and his mother in the area south of Daytona Beach.

They had just said goodbye to their mother, Melinda, who was flying back home when Baker, his girlfriend Haley and his brother Hunter decided to head to the beach after lunch. Around 4 p.m., Baker and Hunter were passing a football around while standing in shallow water along the beach.

“We were in the water for about five minutes, with the water up to our knees or mid-thigh.” He said: “I jumped to catch the ball. I landed on my left foot and my right foot hadn’t even touched the bottom yet and I felt like something was squeezing my (right) foot.

Haley Moore with boyfriend Connor Baker at Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach, after he was bitten by a shark last week while in nearby New Smyrna Beach. (Photo provided)

“I felt like something had stabbed me on both sides, top and bottom. My immediate reaction was to jerk my foot up and freeze for half a second. I was in shock and realized something had bitten me. I didn’t even look, I dropped the ball and somehow got to (Hunter). I jumped up and limped over to him and he ran over to me and I told him I thought he had bitten me.”

They reached the shore and from there people began to help him, they called an ambulance and took him to the emergency room. He credits Hunter with having pulled him out of the water.

“I think most of my foot was in the shark’s mouth, which is crazy to think about.” he said.

Baker was bitten just below the ankle and had lacerations on the sole of his foot near the arch.

When this happened, it pulled up on his foot, causing additional lacerations to his last three toes.

Last Thursday, Belpre resident Connor Baker was loaded into an ambulance in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, after being bitten by a shark. The bite severed four tendons and caused lacerations to his right foot. (Photo provided)

In addition to the severed tendons, there was also minor damage to the plantar fascia, the tissue in the foot used for walking and moving the foot.

He was taken to Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach, where they have expertise in treating injuries and trauma caused by aquatic animals.

Baker said his four severed tendons required surgery that occurred that night and lasted more than four hours.

Medical staff told him the shark miraculously missed hitting a specific nerve, which could have caused much more physical damage.

Doctors initially thought a tendon had been cut and planned an hour-long operation, but they discovered the other tendons and the operation took longer. They also had to clean the wound of seawater and associated bacteria.

He was in the hospital from Thursday until Saturday morning.

As for the shark itself, Baker didn’t even see it.

“I never saw it and I’m glad I didn’t.” he said.

His family must have been in shock when they heard that he had been bitten by a shark.

“There was a lot of shock and a lot of panic,” Baker said there was some comfort in knowing he was there with his girlfriend, who is a nurse, and his family. There was stress about not being there, but that dissipated once he was able to talk to them on FaceTime and when he returned home on Sunday and they realized he was going to be OK.

Melinda Baker said she was “Absolute chaos and stress” When he received the call.

“I hadn’t even gotten off the plane when I landed when I got the call.” she said. “I was really scared at first and cried almost the whole way home from the airport.”

At first he was told the injury wasn’t that serious, but when doctors learned the severity of the injury and he started bleeding again and had to have surgery to repair all the tendons, “all my anxiety increased.”

“It was a good thing they did, though, because that’s when they realized the extent of the damage.” She said about the original surgery and the extended session that was really necessary.

“I have never felt so relieved speaking to his surgeon so late that night.” She said: “I was able to talk to Connor and FaceTime non-stop, which helped a little bit.

“When I heard that he had come out of surgery and that everything had gone well, to say that his father and I were relieved is an understatement. He may be 21, but to me he is still a little boy.”

She was grateful to Haley and her family for being there for her son.

“I am more than grateful for them” she said. “His girlfriend Haley is a nurse and has been by his side through it all. He has been a great gift to our family in the past, but now he is even more so.”

She was also grateful to Hunter for pulling him out of the water.

His mother, Tammy, did a lot of things, from driving back and forth to the hospital to arranging special seats on the flight home, reserving a wheelchair for him, getting him food, clothes, and more.

“On top of that, he kept me up to date with every move.” Melinda Baker said. “Between Tammy and Haley, I felt like I was there. I can never thank Haley and her family enough.”

Since returning home, Baker has been in the process of recovery with Haley by his side. She was with him in the hospital and has been with him since he returned to Ohio.

“Your support has been great” Baker said. “She has not left my side.”

This week you will see a local orthopedic surgeon to examine your foot.

“I can’t do anything with my foot for four weeks” Baker said. “Even at four weeks, I can rotate my ankle.”

He is scheduled to undergo physical therapy due to damaged tendons. In about 6 to 8 weeks he should be able to lift light weights and put his foot on the ground using crutches as a guide. After another 4 to 6 weeks he hopes to be able to walk on his own.

“It will take about three months before I fully recover,” he said.

In the meantime, she will be thinking about how she will finish her senior year at Ohio University, where she is studying to become a teacher.

She has been traveling a lot to school and will not be able to drive. She also plans to begin her teaching internship at Fort Frye High School this fall and then attend regular classes.

“It will be a small problem,” Baker said. “I hope my teachers can work with me and find a way to take classes online until my foot is well enough to drive or take transportation there.”

He also hopes to have a way to get to and from Fort Frye. He hopes to find a way to be able to use his crutches at school and possibly be able to use a stool while teaching.

“It will be a bit of a problem if I can’t find accommodation soon.” Baker said: “I hope to be back to normal or close to normal and be able to walk and drive.”

“I hope to get back to my own pace and schedule before the end of the semester.”

Baker had always heard of shark attacks, but it was always someone else. He never believed it could happen to him.

“Now it’s me,” he said.It’s crazy even when I hear my mom and dad say “Connor was bitten by a shark” or when I tell someone it doesn’t sound real.

“I’m still in shock, but it made me realise that anything can happen and that you shouldn’t take anything for granted.”

He’s telling people to respect the time they have. For the time being, he won’t be able to do some of the things he likes to do, like play basketball, play tennis, or go to the gym and challenge himself there.

“Appreciate those little things” he said.

As far as the ocean goes, Baker may be satisfied for now.

“I definitely won’t be back in the water for a while, maybe never.” he said.

However, since Shark Week aired on Discovery Channel this week, he joked about tuning in when asked.

“Of course, I was the one who opened the game.” he said with a laugh.

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