‘It felt like it ate all my toes,’ Florida man recovering from shark bite recalls

(As originally published with bells and whistles, Mon, March 20th 2023, 6:20 PM EDT; first article here)

FORT PIERCE, Fla. (WPEC) — A man in southern Florida is enduring a long recovery from a shark bite to his right foot.

He had that scary encounter last Sunday, March 12, off the coast of Fort Pierce.

Matt Picarelli, 36, said he went to the beach with a friend to do some body surfing.

He had no idea about the danger lurking in the water, so close to shore.

Matt Picarelli said he needed 50 stitches to close the wound from the shark bite, March 20, 2023. (Matt Picarelli via WPEC)

There was a lot of people in the water. I was a little bit out further than the other people but I tried to catch a wave body surfing, and right when I caught that wave something nipped on my foot so yeah, pretty intense,” Picarelli told reporter Al Pefley.

Picarelli, who works as a freelance videographer, says he and his friend were body surfing when the shark, about five feet long, clamped down on his right foot.

I saw it when it bit me. I saw the shark when it bit me. I saw fins and a tail and it wiggled and it popped out of the water,” he explained.

He said when the shark bit him, he and his friend were about 40 to 50 feet from shore.

The pain of it was, I can’t even, I honestly, it’s so hard to describe. It just, it just felt like it, it felt like it ate all my toes. It just pulled off all my toes, my foot, it just felt like it pulled, like it was so extreme. Like a car hit me, like a vise grip just squeezing at my feet, but really quick, really, really fast,” he said.

Picarelli said the water where he was bitten by the shark was about chest-high and the shark swam away in a hurry.

When it happened, when I got bit, I told my friend we need to get out of the water right now. I just got bit by a shark and she thought I was joking. I had to say it to her a few times and I just pulled her arm, I pulled her out. I grabbed her, I said get out of the water!” he explained.

When he and his friend got to shore, he quickly realized how serious this was.

Once I got to shore, she looked down at my foot, I couldn’t look. I did not want to look at all. But I could see the blood going everywhere. I didn’t lose any toes so I’m very, very thankful,” Picarelli said.

Picarelli saids he suffered a broken tendon and a chipped bone in his right foot, and he needed 50 stitches to close the wound from the shark bite.

I know it’s gonna be a long recovery but I’m gonna be able to be active again, play sports, go back surfing. Body surfing, all of the stuff I love to do,” he said, smiling.

Picarelli said he may have suffered some nerve damage to his toes. He has a follow-up visit with a doctor this week and he’ll know more after that. He also says he anticipates he’ll need a lot of physical therapy to fully recover from the shark attack.

GoFundMe page has been set up to help cover his medical expenses.

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