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Surgeon: San Onofre Shark-Attack Victim ‘Doing Remarkably Well’

Scripps Health trauma surgeon Gail Tominaga updates the media on the status o...

Photo by Roland Lizarondo

Above: Scripps Health trauma surgeon Gail Tominaga updates the media on the status of Leeanne Ericson, the victim of a shark attack in San Onofre, May 5, 2017.

A Vista woman gravely injured last weekend in a San Onofre-area shark attack is "doing remarkably well" following several rounds of surgery, a supervising physician said Friday.

Leeanne Ericson, 35, has regained consciousness and is able to respond to questions by nodding or shaking her head, though she remains on a respirator, trauma surgeon Gail Tominaga told news crews during a briefing at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla.

"She will have a long recovery, but she is doing remarkably well (considering) her injuries," Tominaga said.

Ericson, a single mother of three, was swimming off the coast of San Onofre Beach at Camp Pendleton about an hour before sunset last Saturday when a shark tore off much of her right buttocks and thigh.

A Vista woman gravely injured last weekend in a San Onofre-area shark attack is "doing remarkably well" following several rounds of surgery, a supervising physician said Friday.

The victim's boyfriend and other witnesses, including a Marine Corps emergency-medical technician, provided emergency care, including a makeshift tourniquet, prior to the arrival of paramedics.

Camp Pendelton Fire chief David Lewis said people were huddled around her when he arrived on the scene. Someone had performed first aid and they were applying pressure to the wound to reduce bleeding.

"Her boyfriend Dusty, he's really the hero or the lifesaver in this incident,” said Lewis. “He kept a cool head. He was able to get her up on the board and swim her to shore."

Photo caption: Leeanne Ericson, 35, is pictured in this undated photo.

Photo credit: Christine McKnerney Leidle, GoFundMe

Leeanne Ericson, 35, is pictured in this undated photo.

RELATED: San Onofre ‘Church’s’ Surf Spot Reopens After Shark Attack

Lewis said his trauma training kicked in once he arrived, but he said he had not trained for a shark bite because shark attacks in local waters are rare. There have only been about 12 attacks in more than six decades.

Members of Ericson's family attended the hospital update and provided a public statement thanking everyone who helped save her life — the good Samaritans who hastened to aid her at the beach, lifeguards, civilian and military medics, and staffers at the Genesee Avenue trauma center where she was rushed in critical condition.

The message, read to the assembled news crews by Tominaga, described Ericson's near-fatal shark encounter — after which she almost drowned — "a terrible tragedy" for her "and all of us who love and support her."

"But we know the situation could have been far graver had it not been for the number of emergency-response personnel and others who provided the care she needed and saved her life," the family stated.

Ericson has undergone two operations to clean up her wounds and control bleeding and will have "a few more," including a nerve graft, Tominaga told reporters. Doctors are doing everything they can to make her leg "as functional as possible," the surgeon said.

Ericson's family has set up a GoFundMe.com page to help defray her medical costs, with a target total of $200,000. As of this morning, the website had generated more than $66,000 for the cause.

Her employer, Pacific Marine Credit Union, also has established an account into which its customers can transfer money. Pacific Marine patrons can also donate in person at any of its locations, or by calling (760) 631-8700.

Below is the full statement from the family of Leanne Ericson:

The family of Leeanne Ericson has asked Scripps Health to issue this statement from them on their behalf:

The events of last Saturday at San Onofre State Beach were a terrible tragedy for Leeanne Ericson and all of us who love and support her, but we know the situation could have been far graver had it not been for the number of emergency response personnel and others who provided the care she needed and saved her life.

We want to thank all of these people in this order who helped save Leeanne’s life:

• First, by the grace of God, she is alive.

• Leeanne’s boyfriend, best friend and their families.

• The caller who dialed 911.

• The brave compassionate head sock surfer.

• The EMT Marine and his comrades.

• The State Park Life Guard Service.

• The Camp Pendleton Fire and Paramedic crew

• The Mercy Air Service No. 5 crew

• The Camp Pendleton MPs.

• The Scripps surgeons and staff

• And the huge community of local supporters and prayers.

We are grateful for all of the concern, prayers and good wishes we have received in recent days from the many friends and strangers who have reached out to us from across the country, and indeed, the world.

Last Saturday, Leeanne suffered significant injuries to her right buttocks and upper leg along with significant blood loss. But she was brought to the trauma center here. So, while she remains in critical condition, she is doing well considering her injuries. She has undergone two surgeries and will be back in the operating room for several more during the next few weeks.

We will, of course, continue to be here for Leeanne and her children as she continues on her journey to recovery. And we want you to know that the good we have seen this tragedy bring out in people has been a comfort and helps us carry on.

Many people have asked if there is anything they can do to help. There are two ways you can help: Make a donation in care of Support Leeanne at Pacific Marine Credit Union by calling 760-631-8700 or visiting any local branch, or donate blood in her name for the general community.

Finally, we ask that members of the media understand that our focus must be on Leeanne and that our need for privacy during this difficult time be respected going forward.

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