Joel Mason knows he’s lucky to be alive – he and his wife Nicole tell each other that daily as he sits at home with his right leg elevated, recovering from the trauma of being attacked by a shark on December 9 while surfing at Nambucca Heads.
“I guess this is the easy part,” Joel says of his horizontal position.
“But it’s really hard for me … I am usually a very active person.”
It is also time for reflection and most of all Joel and Nicole want to thank everyone who has helped and supported them during the recent weeks.
“It was such a traumatic thing to happen.
“If it wasn’t for the actions of the magnificent bystanders, Paul (Graham) and Luke (Profke) and Kat (Osborn), who got my leg rope and used it as a tourniquet, as well as the ambos who stabilised me, the firies who lifted me from the bottom of the V-Wall and the others who were there with towels and shirts, I would not be here now.
“I am forever grateful for their selfless actions – it is incredible to see people step up and help out in a situation like that. It was pretty gory.
“I’ve been reaching out as much as I can to make sure all of them are OK …
I want everyone to know I am home and I am healingJoel Mason
A professional lifeguard himself, who trained on the Central Coast, as well as delivering CPR training, among other things, to students at Bowraville Central, if anyone instinctively knew what to do, it was Joel.
“I knew I had to slow my heart rate down and not panic.
“Luckily I had not been knocked off my board so I could paddle to the rocks, luckily those people were nearby, luckily the shark missed most of the nerves in my leg, luckily I still have my leg, luckily I went to John Hunter in Newcastle because the trauma unit there is amazing …”
Nothing like counting the positives!
For Nicole, it is the memory of ‘that’ phone call that still replays in her head.
“There was a call I’d missed at 8.30 on a Sunday morning – then a message to call my friend … I just knew something had happened to Joel,” Nicole said.
“By the time we got to the V-Wall the helicopter was just pulling away – I didn’t see him, I was saying over and over “please make it through”.
“Then we were in the car and heading down to Newcastle …
It was the longest drive of my life ... all the messages helped keep me goingNicole Mason
“Before he went into surgery he said “please save my leg”. I was saying that over and over during the operation.
“He was in theatre for five or six hours and staff kept coming out and reassuring me, which was lovely.”
The couple cannot praise the care Joel received highly enough.
“I’m so amazed at the surgeons and nurses – I was in hospital for 15 days and everyone was exceptional … nothing was a hassle, there was so much support. They are like super heroes without capes,” Joel said.
All the messages of support have also been a much-appreciated salve, as have the fundraising efforts, which will help pay for the months of rehabilitation ahead.
“News travels so fast – people were messaging me on the way to Newcastle … answering them is what kept me going at that point. And since then, they have really helped to lift us up,” Nicole said.
Joel underwent three operations in five days to clean the wounds, remove the shards of shark’s teeth and do multiple skin grafts.
He needed 18 units of blood to survive.
I want to encourage everyone to donate blood – it is the most important thing you can do to help save a lifeJoel Mason
The road to recovery is still a long one – at the moment Joel is having his wound dressed regularly at Macksville Hospital with an end-of-January visit to Newcastle to see orthopaedic and plastic surgeons.
With three small children, life around Joel is certainly busy, plus he has been getting a stream of much-appreciated visitors.
But basically, he needs to rest.
Nicole’s gift of a guitar for Christmas has given him a way to challenge himself … without being active.