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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Shark attack victim facing long recovery

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

Davy Sanada, whose shoulder was ripped apart by a shark off Moloka'i, left The Queen's Medical Center yesterday morning — apparently happy to be going home and grateful to have both arms.

Davy Sanada, his left arm in a sling, spoke at an impromptu news conference yesterday following his discharge from The Queen's Medical Center.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

But now he faces what could be a series of surgeries to repair his left shoulder along with protracted therapy.

Before leaving the hospital, Sanada, 34, paused in an eighth floor corridor for a hastily arranged news conference to thank the doctors and staff that have cared for him at Queen's. He also thanked his family and bystanders, firefighters, emergency personnel, doctors and others who helped rescue and treat him after he was attacked Oct. 9 by what is thought to have been an 8-foot tiger shark.

Looking as if he had lost his left arm, which was actually in a sling beneath his maroon and tan aloha shirt, Sanada wiggled his fingers to show reporters that his hand still functions. So does his elbow, although the pipefitter at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard no longer has the ability to move the arm laterally or over his head.

Other than saying thanks, Sanada spoke little. His left chin and cheek revealed lacerations that are still healing from the attack. He deferred questions to his orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Morris Mitsunaga.

Mitsunaga outlined what happened and how doctors intend to treat Sanada. He said the shark — which attacked Sanada without warning in shallow waters outside Molokai's Kupeke Fishpond as he was coming ashore after diving — "took out about a third to half of his shoulder muscles."

The surgeon referred to Sanada as a "brave young man" and credited him for initially treating the injury by throwing his wet suit over his shoulder to curtail the extreme loss of blood. Sanada was later flown from Moloka'i to Maui Memorial Medical Center, where orthopedic surgeon William Dixon performed surgery to close the wound.

The diver was taken to Queen's on Oct. 11 and Mitsunaga operated on him three days later. Most of the damage to the back of Sanada's shoulder was caused by the shaking action of the shark's clamped jaws.

"The way the shark got him was that the bottom teeth were in the front and the top teeth were in the back, and it did a kind of sawing type of thing," Mitsunaga said. "It was trying to take his whole arm out."

What helped Sanada was that the shark let go and that Sanada was able to drive the animal away by poking it with his spear when it returned. Mitsunaga said had the shark bitten him a second time, Sanada would most likely have lost the limb.

Mitsunaga said Sanada could require additional surgery to transfer muscles from his side to replace those that are missing or that no longer function in his back.

"The big thing right now is that the wound in closed up and everything looks fine," he said. "He's going home, and we'll have to do a lot of intensive rehab.

"It's good that his hand and elbow work fine."

As for his ability to return to his job as a pipefitter, the doctor said time will tell.

"It's going to be a long while before we can find out if he can return to that type of work," he said.

Meanwhile, a co-worker and friend, pipefitter Kevin Seitz, said Sanada's fellow union members, aware that it will be months before he could return to work, plan to donate leave time to him. Sanada is a pipefitter at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard Shop 56.

"Otherwise, he'll use his up," Seitz said. "This way, he won't have to worry about it. We're working with our union steward so that people in our shop can donate leave specifically to Davy."

Seitz said it's encouraging to know Sanada has the use of his hand and elbow.

"It's good to know," he said. "We were all concerned about that."

Reach Will Hoover at 525-8038 or at whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com.