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Image of Dr. Angermeier and Paul Bates fishing

Shark Bite Doesn’t Slow Down This Young Fisherman

Three years ago, Paul Bates and his friend Ben grabbed their rods and bait, and headed down his Daniel Island dock.

He described it as any other summer day.

“I normally go fishing every day during the summer,” said Paul. “And I’m used to being on the water. Normally, I’m catching red fish or sea trout, but sometimes I’ll hook a shark.”

That evening his fishing experience was no different, until that is, Paul had a four foot lemon shark attached to his right hand.

Leading up to this, Paul was holding the shark when it began to thrash. Instinctively, Paul quickly went to toss the shark back into the Wando River, and that’s when it clamped down. For a few terrifying moments, the teenager had 46 pounds of shark bearing down on his right hand with its rows of razor sharp teeth tearing into his flesh. Eventually the shark let loose, and returned with a splash into the river.

Paul Bates and Dr. Angermeier
Paul Bates and Dr. Eric Angermeier

After an ambulance ride to the hospital, orthopaedic hand surgeon Dr. Eric Angermeier performed emergency surgery on Paul to repair his injured hand.  

“Paul had a really serious shark bite injury which went all the way to bone and had severed three tendons,” said Dr. Angermeier. “Much deeper and he could have lost his index finger. Fortunately, I was able to repair the tendons. I think there were a total of about 36 stitches. As a father, and a fisherman myself, I can only imagine how scary this must have been for Paul and has family. Fortunately, he is a bright and motivated young man, and worked hard with our therapists to make a full recovery. He’s also lucky, and I’d encourage anyone who handles sharks to learn to use protective equipment and techniques that can reduce the risk of hand injury.”

Following surgery and some IV antibiotics, Paul was able to return home the next morning, however, he had to give up fishing for a couple months to ensure that his hand healed properly. Ironically, Paul spent the remainder of his summer inside catching up on “Shark Week.”

“When I was in the hospital, everyone was really nice,” described Paul. “The nurses were always popping into my room to check on me and to make sure that I was doing okay. And after my surgery with Dr. Angermeier, everything moved okay just like it use to.”

Now 17 years old and entering his junior year, it’s clear that Paul’s run in with the lemon shark hasn’t slowed him down. He plays football, basketball, and lacrosse, and of course hasn’t given up his passion for fishing. You can often times find him out on his Boston Whaler or the dock fishing the Wando River. And no, he isn’t afraid of sharks.

“I’ve caught plenty of sharks since then, including an eight foot lemon shark,” said Paul. “And I’m even considering being a nautical engineer or marine biologist.”