Surgeon: 12-year-old shark-bite victim recovering from reconstructive surgery

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The 12-year-old girl who lost an arm and suffered serious injuries to her leg in a shark attack earlier this month is in good condition after undergoing reconstructive surgery at N.C. Children’s Hospital at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Kiersten Yow, of Asheboro, was vacationing with her family when she was bitten by a shark on June 14 while swimming about 20 yards offshore of Oak Island. An hour later, 16-year-old Hunter Treschl lost his arm in a shark attack. Treschl was released from New Hanover Regional Medical Center on June 18.

Related story: Teen shark bite victim who lost his arm released from the hospital 

Yow was initially treated at New Hanover, but was transferred to UNC, where “she remains in good condition and is receiving excellent care,” hospital officials said in a news release.

On Thursday, Dr. Bill Adamson, surgeon-in-chief at UNC Children’s Hospital, released a statement about Kiersten’s surgeries and her recovery.

“Kiersten had two surgeries during her first week at UNC—one on Tuesday, June 16, and another on Friday, June 19,” Adamson said. “In both cases, surgeons performed ‘operative debridement,’ removing dead and damaged tissue from the wounds on her left arm and left leg, and changed the wound dressings.”

On June 24, Kiersten had her first reconstructive surgery.

“A team of surgical specialists covered the leg wound with a skin graft and completed initial reconstruction of the elbow, reattaching the tendons to provide maximal range of motion. Reconstruction of the elbow will continue in the coming weeks with surgical wound care and skin grafting on her arm.

“Kiersten was walking with assistance before yesterday’s surgery and will be doing so again soon, although she is currently confined to her hospital bed for the skin grafting to heal. The bite wound on her leg, situated around the rear upper thigh, fortunately did not reach bone or the nerves that control the lower leg, so despite some muscle loss, we expect the skin grafting alone will provide her good function,” he said.

With rehabilitative therapy, her medical team anticipates “she will remaster walking independently and even be able to exercise.”

“Kiersten continues to amaze her entire care team with her upbeat, can-do attitude, which is truly extraordinary for a girl her age given the trauma she experienced,” he said. “There’s been no, ‘Why me?’ or sulking, just a dogged determination to re-establish her independence and return to a normal life—and we are proud to play our part in getting her and her family there.”

Her parents, Brian and Laurie Yow, thanked her medical teams at New Hanover Regional Medical Center and at UNC.

“We want to thank the good Samaritans and emergency responders whose clear heads and quick actions saved Kiersten’s life. We also thank her extraordinary doctors and nurses in Wilmington and Chapel Hill. This has been an extraordinarily traumatic event for our entire family.”

In addition to Yow’s family, emergency officials and the New Hanover Regional Medical Center surgeon who operated on Treschl and Yow have said beach bystanders–and their quick responses–saved both shark-bite victims’ lives.

“The bystanders saved those kids lives,” Brunswick County Emergency Services Director Brian Watts said. “There is no doubt.”

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Caroline Curran is the managing editor of Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6336 or caroline.c@portcitydaily.com. On Twitter: @cgcurran