I paddle as hard as I can for the shore, my muscles screaming in response but to no avail. All I can think is I need to get to Louis as quick as possible. Within seconds I’m in the shallows. I leap off my board, pulling the leash from my ankle and letting my board drift in the surf. Louis is still spluttering on the sand, his eyes closed, his skin grey and blood still pouring from his left knee. I kneel beside him, stroking his cheek, urging him to open his eyes. Nothing. I unzip my suit, pull it down to my waist and untie my bikini top before yanking it free. It’s not much, but it’ll have to do. I tie the string around his thigh, just above the knee. It’s tight and cuts into the skin, but letting him bleed out on the beach isn’t an option.
I scan the beach for help, but it’s deserted. Why? I think to myself. Any other day, the waves would be filled with fellow surfers, friends, neighbours. I look the other way, towards our cottage, it’s probably no more than 200 metres to my back gate. I momentarily consider dragging Louis to the house, but I know it’ll take too long. Instead, I hook my arms under his shoulders and pull him out of the water, leaving a wide crimson streak in our wake, until he’s safely on the sand. I kneel by his head again.
“Honey? I’m just going to call for help okay?” “Hang on. Please.” And with that, I scramble to my feet and run as fast as I can, pulling my wetsuit up over my shoulders again as I go. I hurtle through the gate, up the stairs onto the deck and into the kitchen where my phone sits on the counter-top. I yank it free from its cable and dial as I run back onto the deck, grabbing t-shirts and my jumper as I go.
“911,” The Operator says “What’s your emergency”
“Ambulance! Please, hurry!” My voice comes out a squeak.
“Okay, tell me your name and what’s happened.” It’s a woman on the end of the phone, her voice is calm and steady.
“Taylor. It’s my husband. He’s been attacked by a shark. His lower left leg is gone and he’s losing a lot of blood. I’ve made a tourniquet but it’s not helping. Please hurry!” The phone nestled between my neck and my shoulder as I loop a t-shirt around his knee to try and stem the bleeding.
“Okay, Taylor. I’m Renee. Where are you? I’ll send an ambulance to you now.”
“I’m on the beach at Rainbow Bay, in front of my house. It’s 2239 Old Harbour Road.”
“Okay, Taylor, an ambulance is on its way. Now tell me your husband’s name.”
“It’s Louis.” Her voice begins to calm me and my heart rate slows a little from the juggernaut that’s been inside my chest.
“Okay, is Louis conscious?”
“No. But he’s breathing.” I tell her “I’ve dragged him out of the water onto the sand and I’m trying to stop the bleeding with t-shirts.”
“You’re doing great, Taylor. The ambulance should be with you in just a couple of minutes, alright. I’m going to stay on the line with you until they get there, okay?”
“Okay. Thank you.” I mumble. I can feel the shock beginning to wear off. I feel cold despite the warm air.
“Taylor, is there anyone else there?”
“No. The beach is empty. My kids are all in bed.” I reply. “Oh, God. The kids.”
I hear the ambulance at the top of the street.
“Renee, I can hear the ambulance. What do I do?”
“Just stay right there. Is there an easy way to get to the beach from the front of your house?”
“Um, yeah. There’s a side gate, it’s unlocked.”
“Okay, I’m just going to let them know.”
Within what seems like seconds, I see the navy blue uniforms of the EMTs at my back gate. I wave frantically at them.
“They’re here Renee! I can see them!”
“That’s great Taylor. I’m going to go now. Louis’ is great hands. Good Luck.” And with that, the line goes dead.
The EMT’s arrive. One lifts me from the sand and wraps a blanket around me. I hadn’t even noticed I was shaking. The next few minutes pass in a blur. I watch as they put an IV in Louis’ arm, load him onto a stretcher and carry him back towards the ambulance. It’s then that I notice my kids, all stood on the back deck, frozen with fear. I rush up the path towards them, grabbing them all to me.
“What happened?” Peyton, my youngest squeaks from somewhere around my thigh. I bend down and hoist her onto my hip.
“It’s Papa,“ I tell her. “There was an accident,” my voice sounding unnaturally calm. “I need you to go and get a couple of books, a puzzle, and some jumpers okay? So we can go to the hospital.”
She hugs my neck tightly then nods at me. I set her down and she turns back into the house.
“Jackson, Blake, can you please go with her and make sure she doesn’t try to pack the entire house?” I ask of my 9-year-old twin boys. They nod and follow. And I’m left on the back deck with Noah, my 17-year-old, staring at me.
“Mama, was it a shark?” he asks me. I nod dumbly.
“Will he live?” I want to tell him, of course! Your father is a mountain of a man. But the truth is I don’t know. And I can’t hide that from him so I answer him truthfully.
“I don’t know.”