N.C. shark attack survivor lights up social media with positive outlook

Shark attack survivor: Sixteen-year-old Hunter Treschl is vowing to 'fight and live a normal life.'

New Hanover Regional Medical Center/AP
Shark attack survivor Hunter Treschl speaks during an interview at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, N.C. on Tuesday.

Even after losing an arm, Hunter Treschl is smiling.

The 16-year-old, one of two teens who survived a pair of rare shark attacks over the weekend, is inspiring people across the Web after giving an interview Tuesday from his hospital bed at the New Hanover Regional Medical Center.

The teenager appeared to be in remarkably sunny spirits during the recorded interview, smiling wryly as he described how he hadn't seen the shark coming. “I was just in about waist-deep water, I would say, playing with my cousin,” he said. “And I felt this kind of hit on my left leg.”

 Instead of letting the attack “ruin his life,” Treschl said he had come to terms with his loss and made the decision to “fight and live a normal life.”

“So I kind of have two options: I can try to live my life the way I was and make an effort to do that even though I don't have an arm, or I can kind of just let this be completely debilitating and bring my life down ...” he said. “There’s really only one I would actually choose.”

The parents of Kiersten Yow, a 12-year-old girl who had also lost part of her arm in a shark attack shortly before Treschl and is receiving treatment at NC Children's Hospital at the University of North Carolina, told reporters that she had “a long road to recovery.” They thanked doctors who had told her she would likely be able to keep one of her legs, which was also injured.

Treschl also expressed gratitude about the medical treatment he had received. “There was about 25 people in this room, and they kind of got me ready for surgery and then knocked me out, and uh, fixed my arm up. Did a pretty good job on it too, from what I hear,” he said. “Feels good.”

“This guy is wise beyond his years. What a great attitude,” read one comment about his story on ABC News.

“That moment when you realize a 16-year-old young man is tougher than you are. I wish him the best in his recovery!” said another.

Many patients have described maintaining a positive outlook as key to their recovery. It's a way of taking back control, wrote Steven Lewis, a cancer survivor and author of “The Ripple Effect: How a Positive Attitude and a Caring Community Helped Save My Life.”

“I call this 'the power of choice,' and I believe patients can take this route to empower themselves through severe, life-threatening disease and other life challenges,” wrote Lewis in a Fox News op-ed. “Looking back, I understand that I ultimately made a choice to be a survivor rather than a victim.”

In responses to Treschl’s interview, many social media users likened his story to the tale of Bethany Hamilton, a professional surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack in 2003. Hamilton, who had been 13 at the time of the attack, returned to professional surfing. In 2004, she published a book about her comeback, the autobiography "Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board," which was made into a movie in 2011. Hamilton announced the birth of her son on Monday.

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