Nurse Practitioner Survives Fire Island Shark Bite on Fourth of July

Imagine enjoying a leisurely day off on Fire Island to celebrate the Fourth of July when, during your last swim of the day, you find yourself facing a shark attack. This terrifying ordeal became a reality for Lyudmila Emag, a 47-year-old nurse practitioner from Brooklyn, NY.

Emag, along with the emergency physician who treated her, Dr. Nadia Baranchuk, and Dr. Sanjey Gupta, chair of emergency medicine at South Shore University Hospital (SSUH), bravely recounted the details during a press conference hosted by SSUH.

Having spent a peaceful day by the water, Emag and her two friends decided to take a stroll on the beach, landing between Cherry Grove and Sailor’s Haven before finally deciding to enjoy one last dip at around 4 p.m. Little did they know that the idyllic day would take a dramatic turn.

         “I felt something grab my thigh, and I screamed to my friends, ‘Something is biting me!’ but I don’t know if they heard me,” said Emag. “I felt like I was in trouble. It was holding onto me, but I didn’t know it was a shark. I thought it was some kind of animal.”

         Miraculously, she managed to pry open the shark’s jaws with her hands and free herself from its grip, making it back to the shore. “I saw the blood creeping down, and it was confirmed that something really bit me,” revealed Emag. “I wasn’t even in pain! I felt discomfort but no pain.”

         Although Emag never saw the shark, her friends caught a glimpse of it shortly after the attack and estimated its size to be around 4 to 5 feet. In addition, a marine biologist confirmed that the bite was indeed from a shark after examining photos of the wound.

         After receiving help from the lifeguards and park police, Emag was transported to SSUH in Bay Shore, first by boat, and then by ambulance.

         Upon arriving at the hospital’s emergency department, Emag met Baranchuk, who had treated her first shark bite earlier that same day where she surgically removed a shark tooth from the victim’s hand in another incident over the July 4 holiday. Despite her inexperience with shark bites, Baranchuk had confidence in her assessment from her sudden crash course on the subject: “I was pretty sure it was a shark, but honestly, it’s the same as going down to the basics. It’s treating animal wound bites,” said Baranchuk.

She explained that the bite resulted in several abrasions, lacerations, and some deep as well as superficial wounds – stretching from Emag’s upper thigh to her groin.

“Think of it as a tearing action. The jaw from any animal will bite into the skin and then I guess she tried to pull the shark off so it kind of tore through the soft tissues in that area,” explained Baranchuk.

         Following standard procedures for animal bites, an x-ray confirmed that there were no foreign bodies, such as loose teeth or marine debris. Fortunately, Emag was up to date on her tetanus shot, so no additional vaccination was necessary. The wound was thoroughly irrigated to minimize the risk of infection, and a careful decision of no stitches was made regarding its closure, considering both the risk of infection and the cosmetic outcome. Emag was prescribed oral antibiotics to aid in the healing process.

         Despite the harrowing events of July 4, Emag expressed her desire to return to the ocean as soon as she is healed, showcasing her remarkable composure and resilience after the bite.