Man's scary shark attack led to a life-saving discovery

Oct 13, 2015 at 2:07 p.m. ET
Image: Stefanoborsani/Getty Images

According to National Geographic, you have only a 1 in 11.5 million chance of getting bitten by a shark. However, that's nowhere near as rare as having a shark attack lead to a lifesaving discovery.

However, that was indeed the case for lucky shark attack survivor Eugene Finney, who was bitten in the back by a shark in California waters. He and his family were on vacation there in July when Finney took a fateful swim in the ocean at Huntington Beach, which led to the attack.

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He was actually holding his daughter in his arms when he was sideswiped by the predator fish. He felt a hard blow to his back, which made him clutch his daughter tighter and swim back to shore as fast as he could. He told Cosmo, "Something struck me from behind. I'd never been hit like that before. It was pretty jarring. It kind of gave me an instant whiplash."

When he got out of the water, his daughter asked why his back was covered in blood. Sure enough, there was a long gash that started at his upper shoulder and went down to his mid-back. However, aside from the violent bashing he received, Finney felt fine enough to return home. However, the next day, he was having terrible pains in his back and chest. He finally decided to go to the hospital and get checked out.

While the pain was nothing more than residual bruising from the shark attack, the doctors found something else in Finney that likely would have gone undetected if not for the localized cut.

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The CAT scan they performed on his back to see if there was any more internal damage caused by the shark attack led them to a tumor on his right kidney. Fortunately it was only stage one and thus easily removed. However, if the gash had not been where it was, it's very unlikely the tumor would've been detected before it had grown to an inoperable size.

“It was Mother Nature’s message for me,” Finney told The Washington Post. Having grown up in New Jersey by the ocean, he's always had a profound respect for sharks. When this lucky diagnosis came about, his respect grew exponentially. He said he would go back and hug that shark if he could. In the end, an event that most people spend their lives fearing gave Finney a second chance at his.

The surgery for the tumor removal was minimally invasive, and he had to stay in the hospital for only two days. While the biopsied tumor was indeed cancerous, his doctors have now declared him cancer free and are confident it won't return in the future.

The pain he felt from the shark attack has almost completely subsided, but the scar he carries on his back will forever be a reminder of his 1 in 11.5 million, terrifying, lifesaving encounter.


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