While on holiday with his family on Saturday, 27 June, Caleb Swanepoel was bitten by a shark during a bodysurf session at Buffels Bay near Knysna. His right leg was taken above the knee in the encounter, and he was lucky to escape with his life after his femoral artery was severed. Despite the traumatic experience, however, he has moved on with an inspiring and positive outlook.
It’s takes a lot of courage to cultivate a positive outlook like Caleb has after his encounter.
“I am lucky to be alive,” Caleb told Zigzag. “After the shark took my leg, my femoral artery went into spasm and clotted. The orthopaedic surgeon at the Mediclinic in George said that this was a miracle, and the reason why I am still alive. Had the artery not clotted, I would have bled to death on the beach within minutes.”
Having miraculously survived, Caleb is now well aware that life goes on – something he admits his friends and family were quick to remind him about. And the 20 year-old University of Cape Town student is keen to continue his studies.
“While I was locked in the shark’s bear trap jaw, a million tiny things flew through my mind, one being my drama degree,” said Caleb. “I wish to continue with my studies as far as possible. I am studying drama at UCT, and it was initially a concern, bearing in mind that there are a lot of movement and related activities that form part of the curriculum. I have since met with the drama department though, and they have been most accommodating as regards to enabling me to continue my studies.”
During the early stages of recovery, Caleb kept a brave smile on his face.
To try and ensure that he doesn’t fall behind with his studies, Caleb has been looking at his different options in regards to rehabilitation and prosthesis. But prosthetic legs come with a staggering cost, and funds are being raised to get this surf soldier mobile again.
Caleb has already received considerable support on the GoFund Me campaign that has been set up to raise funds needed for a prosthetic leg, but they are still a long way off their target of $10 000. Which is why we’re sharing Caleb’s story. If you’re able to contribute – big or small – we encourage you to do so. You’ll be investing in the future of a bright and positive surfing brother.
Caleb recently met up with fellow shark attack survivor and paralympic medallist, Achmat Hassiem, for some swim training.
“Although I have lost a limb, my family and I have gained richly from this experience,” said Caleb. “It has allowed me to connect with people all over the world. The support we have received has been incredible and I have had the privilege of meeting other amputees from various walks of life. Their experiences and advice are a great help to me. I trust that my experience will also enable me to help and encourage others.”
With a positive never-give-up attitude on display, Caleb’s story is already an encouragement to others – not just for those in a similar situation after losing a limb, but anyone facing a tough road ahead as well.
Caleb up and about, busy beating his brother at a game of putt putt.