Florida Teen Survives Shark Attack After Losing 70 Percent of His Blood: 'I Feel Pretty Lucky'
On the morning of Aug. 7, Lucas Cruz was celebrating his 15th birthday with his grandfather, mother, and other family members by searching for lobsters off the Florida Keys. Then suddenly, he felt something in the water pull or push him.
Lucas had been bitten by a shark in both of his legs, an attack he survived after being pulled up onto the boat by his family.
"I kind of just bled out on the boat," he recalls. "It crossed my mind that I was going to lose my leg. Luckily I didn't."
The Pinecrest, Florida teen lost 70 percent of the blood in his body, about three liters, and his legs needed to be reconstructed in a series of four operations.
"He had cuts all the way down to his bone," Dr. Haaris Mir, a surgeon and medical director at the Burn and Reconstructive Centers of America in Miami who helped reconstruct the teen's legs, tells PEOPLE.
"There were actually teeth marks on his bone in his legs," Mir adds.
At the time of the attack, Lucas recalls he was in the Ocean Reef channel near Key Largo and had just caught a lobster. Separated from other family members by about 30 feet, he swam back to them after feeling the mysterious bump in the water.
"I thought it was the boat, but it wasn't because when I looked above the water there was no boat near me," says the teen, whose legs are still healing from the attack. "So then I realized it was a shark."
His family summoned their boat captain for help, who put tourniquets on the teen's legs to stem the bleeding. Lucas was then airlifted to a trauma center.
"I think that really saved his life," Mir says of the captain's use of tourniquets.
The bite had sunk into the boy's upper right thigh as well as his front left leg from the knee down, which left him with calf muscles "completely cut in half," says Mir. Additionally, the bite severed the teen's left Achilles.
"Initially I thought he had multiple bites," says Mir, "but after talking to him, he said he was only bitten once. "
"So if a shark grabbed both his legs, from an ankle to the top of his thigh, that is about four feet and it would tell you just how big the jaw was," says Mir, who estimates only an eight to 10-foot bull shark could be responsible for "that big of a bite."
"I think he's very, very lucky," adds Mir.
So far this year, here have been 25 shark attacks in Florida with no fatalities, according to TrackingSharks.com.
Although Mir says that the teen's shark bite "is by far the worst" he's ever seen, fortunately, the boy's outlook for a full recovery is good.
Lucas is now in rehabilitative therapy, and started ninth grade earlier this month at Gulliver Prep. "I feel pretty lucky because they said that there was a good chance I was going to die, but I didn't," he says. "So I guess I'm pretty lucky."
When he explains to classmates why he is in a wheelchair, "a lot of them don't believe me," he says. "I have to show some of them pictures for them to believe me."
Lucas is now looking forward to eventually returning to soccer and basketball, and even the water. "My family does a lot of stuff that involves the water," he says. "I'll definitely go back in."