Tufts surgeon who treated shark bite victim speaks about patient's recovery

BOSTON - Dr. Eric Mahoney was the trauma surgeon on duty the afternoon that William Lytton was taken to the Tufts Medical Center in Boston after being bitten by a shark on the Cape.

Lytton was swimming just feet away from the shore at Long Nook Beach in Truro when he felt a sharp pain on his torso and legs and realized he was being bitten by a shark.

He was rushed to the hospital via Medflight but was calm, conscious, and talking, something his doctors attribute to his positive outlook and the immense help he got from witnesses at the scene, who they say did the right thing.

"Of course it had a large shock value coming in as a shark bite victim," said Dr. Mahoney. “I equate this to severe industrial accidents or mangled extremities from car accidents."

Dr. Mahoney said he prepared himself and his team in the moments leading up to Lytton's arrival at Tufts for a range of possible complications.

"Ultimately he would've have eight operations while he was here," said Dr. Mahoney.

Eight operations later and Lytton still has a ways to go.

Lytton was admitted to the hospital more than two weeks ago with six or seven lacerations from his hip down to his knees. Dr. Mahoney says two of those lacerations went down to the bone, and one within two centimeters of Lytton's blood supply.

“If those arteries are injured, they need to be repaired and it affects limb salvage, if the nerve is injured, the function of the leg is affected," said Dr. Mahoney.

Before starting the first operation, doctors administers anesthesia and put Lytton on a breathing machine.

First, the team of doctors focused on controlling the bleeding, and then began a massive blood transfusion on Lytton.

According to Dr. Mahoney, there's no way to know exactly how much more blood Lytton would've lost if those witnesses on the beach had not stepped in to stop the bleeding with a tourniquet before carrying the victim up a sand dune.

As they cleaned the wound to Lytton's leg, doctors found pieces of what appeared to be razor sharp serrated shark teeth. Later, they found out Lytton had to repeatedly punch the shark in the gills in order to escape.

"The concerns for that are infection, an injury in salt water and what bacteria what might be in tooth of shark," said Dr. Mahoney.

During his 11 days at the hospital, hundreds of stitches, some of them internal, helped Lytton heal as his family members stood by his bedside.

Dr. Mahoney says about 50 percent of patients with these types of injuries will experience long-term effects, but says he's confident Lytton will make a full recovery.

"I've had the privilege of caring for him but he's doing all the hard work," said Dr. Mahoney.

In the months to come, Lytton is expected to go through physical therapy.

Dr. Mahoney says Lytton, who is also a writer and works on his computer, will undergo rehabilitation at the Spaulding Rehab Center to recover from a hand injury.

In the meantime, the tooth fragments extracted from Lytton's leg were sent over to experts in order to determine if a great white shark was responsible for the attack.