A resilient young boy who lost part of his leg in a brutal shark attack in the Florida Keys last month said he intends to go back in the water at the exact spot of the encounter.
Jameson Reeder Jr. and his family were in the Keys and were snorkeling along a shallow reef near Looe Key Reef on Aug. 13 when he was suddenly attacked.
"I'm going to go back in the water, and I'm going to go in the same place where I got bitten," Reeder said in a video released by Miami's Nicklaus Children's Hospital Friday. "I don't want to think of Looe Key as my worst nightmare, or this hospital, so I want to go back there and when I go back there, I feel like everything's going to be better and I won't have any worse nightmares."
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Family members flagged down another boat that happened to have a nurse on board, and the boy was rushed to shore where he was met by Monroe County Fire Rescue crews.
"We began to realize exactly what happened and were devastated immediately," said father Jameson Reeder Sr. "Jameson, as I was holding him right in my arms, he looked in my eyes in shock, white, he had already lost a lot of blood. And he looked in my eyes and he said 'Daddy, Jesus is going to save me' and I'll never forget those words as long as I live, because moments later, I would pass him across our boat to another boat, not knowing if I would ever see him again."
In another hospital video, Fire Rescue Lt. David Millan discusses the boy's condition.
"We quickly realized that it was a severe shark bite," Millan said. "I have never in my short 10 years, 11 years, I've never seen a shark bite this intense and this severe on anybody, a child or an adult."
Millan said Reeder was in shock at first but then quickly calmed down and started talking to rescue workers.
"He knew that he was going to be fine," Millan said. "He was calm, I've seen patients with less injuries being more dramatic and he was calm."
Reeder was airlifted to Nicklaus Children's where doctors also got a first glimpse at his brutal leg injury.
"It became pretty clear pretty quickly that this was a devastating injury," said Dr. Aaron Berger, a pediatric plastic surgeon at Nicklaus.
Berger said Reeder had an at least 20-centimeter bite in the shape of a shark's jaw and had his leg bone exposed. He said the only comparable injuries were ones he'd seen from motorcycle crashes or pedestrians being hit by vehicles.
"My initial goal was to try to salvage whatever we can, to try to save that leg," Berger said.
But it quickly became apparent that doctors would have to amputate part of the leg below the knee.
Berger said Reeder will be fitted for a prosthesis and may have to undergo more surgeries down the line. But Reeder is remaining upbeat.
"I'm going to be fine and in like two months I'm going to get a prosthetic leg, a cool one," he said.
"I suspect he was quite mature before all of this happened and this has been an obviously life-changing event for him and he has taken it better than anyone I know could have, better than I would have," Berger said. "I think there is nothing that will hold this child back from doing all the things he wants to do in life."
Reeder turned 11 during his stay at Nicklaus and celebrated with a big party, where his father thanked hospital staff.
"We are so grateful for everything every single one of you has done. The list is too long right now to go through in just two weeks of all the people who have just poured out their blessings, their love and support and kindness," Jameson Reeder Sr. said. "And we are just entirely grateful for who you are and what you represent for us as a family."
Reeder spent about three weeks in the hospital. His family splits their time between South Florida and North Carolina.