Florida Cheerleader Leg Amputation Scheduled After Shark Attack

A 17-year-old high school student from Perry, Florida, who was attacked by a shark is raising money to pay for medical bills in the face of the upcoming amputation of her right leg.

According to the GoFundMe page, on June 30, Addison Bethea was scalloping on Keaton Beach when she was attacked by a 9-foot-long shark, which bit her several times. Her brother, firefighter Rhett Willingham, ran to help, and eventually dragged his sister away from the shark.

Willingham and other local boaters nearby helped to tie a tourniquet around Bethea's leg to control the bleeding before she was airlifted to the Bixler Trauma & Emergency Center at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital.

While shark attacks are relatively rare, Florida sees a large proportion of the total attacks globally. In 2021, Florida reported 28 cases of unprovoked shark attacks, which represented 60 percent of the attacks across the whole U.S., and 38 percent of total worldwide attacks.

Regardless, the overall risk of an unprovoked shark bite is extremely low, especially given the huge number of people in the water across the globe each year. In the U.S., you are much more likely to get injured or even die using a bicycle than be bitten by a shark, let alone die.

Stock images of a great white shark breaching and an amputated leg stump. Addison's right leg is due to be amputated just above the knee on July 6. iStock / Getty Images Plus

Unfortunately, due to her quadriceps being destroyed by the attack and the damage to her nerves and blood vessels, Bethea's right leg could not be saved, and she is scheduled to have it amputated above the knee on July 6. She has already gone through one surgery, where surgeons restored the blood flow into her damaged lower leg, enabling them to rebuild the blood vessels and preserve the tissue for the second surgery. The surgeons plan to take this muscular tissue and skin from the amputated lower leg and wrap it around Bethea's femur, giving her the musculature that will allow her to use a prosthetic lower leg.

"This is the best-case scenario for Addison, and the best option to get her back to the most normal life possible," said Bethea's mother Michelle in an update on the GoFundMe page.

Bethea and her family have seen a huge outpouring of support on the Facebook page they set up to raise awareness and funds, titled Fight Like Addison, and have already raised over $35,000 of their $50,000 goal.

"We want to extend our deepest gratitude and thanks to everyone for the unbelievable support during this very difficult time following Addison's shark attack," said Bethea's family in a Facebook post. "People have reached out with help physically, financially, and also mentally for us all. We can not even come close to describing just how much it has meant to us and how much it is appreciated."

"Your family is always in my thoughts, love and hugs to you. Such a strong and beautiful family. you got this. Such a brave and strong person with a heart of gold your daughter. Your son is simply put an Angel," said one commenter on a photo of the family posted on July 5, the night before the surgery.