Faith remains strong for shark-bite survivor - FOX 35 News Orlando

Faith remains strong for shark-bite survivor

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Erik Norrie plays with a toy shark a friend got him as a joke. Erik Norrie plays with a toy shark a friend got him as a joke.
Norrie offers a thumbs-up while gingerly walking on his injured leg. Norrie offers a thumbs-up while gingerly walking on his injured leg.
TAMPA (FOX 13) -

A Largo man is in good spirits and in good condition after almost becoming shark bait down in the Bahamas. He's at Tampa General Hospital right now, awaiting skin graft surgery.

Erik Norrie survived the potentially deadly attack back on July 29 and says he owes his survival to his strong faith in God. We spoke with him exclusively from his hospital room at TGH Monday, where he was just about to meet with the surgeons who will oversee his skin grafts.

"Thumbs up!" said Norrie enthusiastically, as he took some of his first ginger steps on his injured leg.

The fact that he can walk is no small miracle. His lower left leg is bandaged and sore from that nasty shark bite.

"It's called the shark bite diet, you can lose two pounds in three seconds," he joked before turning serious. "My father-in-law jumped in the water, between me and the shark, which was pretty courageous on his part and it was a scary moment, I can tell ya!"

It happened just off the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, where he and his family were vacationing. They had just had lunch, and Norrie went snorkeling and spearfishing for their grouper dinner for later.

"After I had speared the grouper, I was swimming back toward the boat to put them in the cooler and I was probably in about five feet of water," Norrie recalled. "And all of the sudden I felt this [crunch] on the back of my leg. And just as I looked back, he was just finishing his bite and ripping and swimming off, and you could see a piece of my leg in his mouth. My first reaction was, 'Aaaahhh!' And I real quickly flipped my right foot into the shallowest water I could get in and I stood up and I picked my leg up out of the water."

He was losing blood, and fast.

"I immediately threw the spear down with the fish because there was an enormous pool of blood around me and that shark was swimming all through the blood, sort of looking around, for more," continued Norrie.

His wife Spryng and their four daughters witnessed the horrific scene.

"It was a reality as soon as I saw red covering the water," said Spryng Norrie.

"My daughter, she got on the radio, calling out, 'Help, help, my dad's been attacked by a shark'" said Norrie, who tied the large rubber bands from his spear around his leg to cut off the blood flow to the lower half of his leg.

"I didn't keep my head cool, the Lord kept my head cool," said Norrie reverently. "Because I couldn't have done it without him; he sustained me, kept me calm."

A doctor, vacationing from San Diego, just happened to be within three minutes of them and helped the family get Norrie to shore and to a medical facility, and then to Jackson Hospital in Miami.

"That was a tough ride," said Norrie. "I really did think I was going to die."

His wife and daughters grabbed hands and closed their eyes.

"They were gathered together in prayer, just praying out loud, and my oldest daughter started texting friends of mine to pray," continued Norrie.

Were those prayers answered?

"Yes," Spryng said enthusiastically. "Absolutely! From what I saw on the boat of his leg and each step that went along, I felt like miracles were happening!"

Norrie has been spearfishing since he was 8. He said he is grateful to God for sparing his life.

"As odd as it might sound, I remember thanking him for it, because I knew something great would come from it," said Norrie.

"You're not asking God, 'Why did you do this to me?'" we asked.

"No," Norrie replied. "I'll be honest, I'm saying 'Thank you' that he did, because I know something great will come from it. And I gotta believe this is part of my journey."

"God has a very big purpose for Erik's life and I believe he wants to do a mighty work through Erik," Spryng Norrie offered. "I'm just amazed, in his strength. He's so strong. And he's been so brave and just wonderful. I'm really glad to have him."

"So blessed," sang his daughter Haley Norrie, as she serenaded her father with a praise and worship song in his hospital room.

The family said their prayers got them through the worst part of this ordeal and they are certain their strong faith will take them to whatever the next challenge ahead is.

By the way, Norrie has also been struck by lightning, and his right leg has been bitten by a rattlesnake. He's also been punched by monkeys twice, and now can claim that he's survived a major shark bite.

Norrie will be looking at multiple skin grafts -- similar to the kind local girl Ireland Nugent, who lost her feet in a lawnmower accident -- got from the same skilled surgeons at Tampa General Hospital.

He is confident they will have his leg looking and feeling like new again.

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