SHARK attack victim Glen ‘‘Lenny’’ Folkard will take his biggest steps on the long road to recovery today when he walks for the first time since a great white shark almost took his life three weeks ago.
The father of three continues to show inspirational positive thinking about his future after battling through six operations and weeks of skin grafts and redressings on a wound that has taken out part of his thigh and buttocks.
But the 35-year veteran of the waves does not think he can return to the ocean after narrowly avoiding death off Redhead beach.
‘‘At this point I just can’t see how I can go back in the water,’’ he said yesterday.
‘‘But also, I have done it since I was a little boy and I can’t see how I can’t go back in the water.
‘‘... I can’t see how I can surf in comfort again ... and I don’t know if I can put my wife and kids through that.’’
See and hear Lenny's interview with Herald journalist Dan Proudman and photographer Darren Pateman.
Mr Folkard remains optimistic he can return to his outgoing self as he readies to leave the John Hunter Hospital tomorrow and return home to his wife Angela and children Ellie, 13, Grace, 9, and Cooper, 2.
The tattoo shop owner spoke about how looking death in the face had changed his perspective on life, that he now realises ‘‘that people are what matter’’.
But he also allowed himself to go back to the moments when the 3.1-metre bull shark latched onto his right upper thigh, pulled him under and started his fight for life.
And of how fellow surfer Nathan Visscher put his own life in danger to help him.
‘‘Nathan Visscher is my man. He risked his life, he put everything on the line,’’ Mr Folkard said.
‘‘He paddled over. He thought he was going to see the end of me.
‘‘He reckons the shark was five feet behind me while I was paddling and pouring blood out the back of me.
‘‘I thought I was gone then too, but things came together – the ocean threw a few waves up and we got to the shore.’’
And when he got to shore, Mr Folkard said other lucky breaks fell into place, like two off-duty paramedics and a nurse on the beach.
And then realisation struck him.
‘‘There was a point there when I rolled off the surfboard onto the sand after the attack, onto my back, looking up at the sky going: ‘I’m still here. I’m alive’,’’ he said.
‘‘That was a significant turn in, I think, my whole life. That was a real moment.’’
Mr Folkard said he had so many people to thank, including the ‘‘incredible’’ trauma team who had helped him this far, the many people on the beach who kept him alive, the friends who had been unwavering in their support, and his ‘‘amazing’’ wife who had been ‘‘a tower of strength’’.
For more pictures of the interview, and the day of the shark attack, click on the image below.
He said he felt no animosity towards the shark and now realised he was not ‘‘on top of the food chain’’.
He said factors including increased baitfish, a high tide and even his ‘‘glinting’’ watch could have contributed to the attack.
‘‘But I am not going to be a staunch defender [of sharks]. I think they need to protect the public,’’ he said.
He was also grateful for small mercies, like never seeing the shark’s eye or its jaws during the attack.
‘‘... I think those images would have really made a mess of me,’’ he said.
And he added: ‘‘At this point I am struggling a little bit but you just have to keep on remembering the upsides.
‘‘I have got the leg, I have got movement in my leg. I am still here. There are a lot of shark victims who are in a lot worse positions than I am.’’
Mr Folkard, who owns Downunder Tattoo on the Pacific Highway at Charlestown, says he has not ruled out getting ‘‘shark bait’’ written in ink on his body.