Bitten by a shark at the age of 13, this is how this boy overcame his fear and returned to the sea

It was a misty fall morning in 2018, Keane Hayes was swimming about 200 meters off the Beacon coast in San Diego. The boy born in 2005 decided to dive to the bottom to find lobsters.

Approaching a depth of about 3 meters, Keane found a ledge that was likely where the shrimp were hiding. He swam around there to check, but in the end didn’t see a single shrimp.

Empty as he was jutting out of the water, Keane suddenly felt his body being jerked.


At first, the boy thought it was his diving buddy doing a prank on him. But then, Keane saw that his wet suit was torn and from that large tear, a stream of red blood poured out into the sea.

Keane panicked when he reached the surface, the boy screaming and struggling. A kayak attracted by the distress signal approached him, on which a policeman and a lifeguard brought him to shore.

Keane couldn’t even see the shark that bit him, but it was definitely a shark.

When heaven turns to darkness

Keane was born and raised in the coastal city of San Diego in the state of California, United States. The boy loved swimming since childhood. Ellie Hayes, Keane’s mother, said that she and her husband, Ben Hayes, had to pull Keane’s hand out of the pool every time he didn’t want to go ashore. Each time Keane cried so hard.

But the older he gets, the more Keane feels that the small swimming pools are the place to imprison him. Like other children growing up on the coast, the boy naturally found the ocean as a new paradise.

Keane began to conquer the sea with surfing. But it wasn’t long before he realized that scuba diving was what he fell in love with. Keane is often captivated by what’s beneath the ocean’s surface, often filming his crustacean dives and sharing them on YouTube.


The turning point came on September 29, 2018, the opening day of the lobster diving season in San Diego. Keane’s mother reluctantly allowed him to go lobster hunting that day. She and her husband also went to the festival to cheer, they stood on top of a cliff to observe the position of their son.

When Keane’s screams came from the water, his father turned to joke with his wife.”Maybe he’s being eaten by a shark.”. Almost a moment later, they realized the joke might be true. The two rushed to the beach to pick up the kayak that was bringing the boy ashore.

Keane was seriously injured at the time. The shark’s bite was so deep that lifeguards could see through it and see the boy’s lungs heaving. Keane was taken to Rady Children’s Hospital in critical condition. The boy had to undergo a 5-hour surgery and a total of 1,000 stitches.

Doctors compared the shark’s teeth with the DNA traces it left in the bite. It was identified as a great white shark. The fish bit off Keane’s collarbone and left numerous back injuries including tearing his rotator cuff, broken shoulder blade, total deltoid and latissimus dorsi damage.


Keane was hospitalized for about a week, but he often had to return for regular check-ups and physical therapy. However, throughout his ordeal, Keane always harbored a desire in his heart – to one day be back at sea.

The 13-year-old doesn’t just want to find his passion again. He also wants to inspire others: “Even if something bad happens, you can still find a way to do what you love, no matter what.“, Keane said.

But waiting for the boy presents real challenges, physical and emotional scars – not only for the boy himself but also for his family.

Coping with a particular trauma

In the days after the shark bite, Keane was overwhelmed by the attention, from the radio and local news to the anxiety of friends and family. His parents wondered if their son was obsessed with sharks.

To encourage Keane and his family, writer Bethany Hamilton visited them. The girl born in 1990 also had an accident with a shark in 2003, that is, when she was 13 years old. Hamilton even lost an arm completely but later still became a successful surfer.

She is living proof that you don’t have to have a lifelong obsession with a shark.


Bethany Hamilton lost an arm when she was attacked by a shark at the age of 13.

Talking to Keane, Hamilton helped the boy realize that the bite could just be from the shark mistaking him for something. The great white shark actually has very poor eyesight and it never intentionally hunts humans.

A 2021 study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface shows that sharks frequently mistake humans for seals. Keane then felt less scared, when he noticed the shark was not intentionally aimed at him.

But when he told Hamilton about his intention to return to the ocean, Keane’s mother interrupted: “Mom said “No, you’ll never go back there”.


The shark leaves more people with fear than it actually bites. According to a 2018 study by the University of Sydney, almost a third of shark bite survivors and their families have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

And although Hamilton tried to convince Mrs Hayes that when Keane was back in the sea there was only a 1 in 17 million chance he would be bitten by another shark, the numbers weren’t small enough to convince his mother. The boy allows it.


Keane had cherished the desire to return to the ocean while still in his hospital bed.

It wasn’t until Christmas that year, when Keane begged for the only gift he wanted, to be back at sea, that Mrs. Hayes became weak. It was three months after the shark attack that Keane was once again immersed in the ocean.

Although the boy could only swim in short bursts on small waves, Keane felt “I feel like I’m home”he said.


In 2019, Keane decided to take part in another therapy called “exposure therapy”. This therapy is a technique in the behavioral therapy suite for the treatment of anxiety disorders or trauma.

Its purpose is to expose patients to sources of anxiety or fear, in an extremely safe setting. Doing so is thought to help patients face their fear and become more intolerant of it.

For Keane, the boy went to the Mexican island of Guadalupe and took part in a cage dive to observe sharks. Within a few inches of circling sharks, Keane says he’s now more curious about sharks than scared of them.

Ms. Hayes herself has her own exposure therapy. The painful and haunting memories of the day her son was picked up ashore with a bloody arm were pushed back. Instead, there are videos that Keane takes on every trip he makes back to the sea, filled with smiles and obvious happiness in his eyes.

That’s also exposure therapy for me.”Hayes said. Gradually, she no longer felt anxious or had the urge to go to the beach to wait for Keane to return from surfing trips. “BILLIONOh starting to have faith in the ocean“, Hayes confided.


Kaene and her mother Hayes became even more obsessed with sharks than their son after the accident.

In some ways, encounters with sharks leave a different pattern of trauma than other accident events. It attracted a lot of media attention. The news cycle surrounding these events is also shortened and the privacy of victims and their families is continuously exploited or violated.

According to a study by the University of Sydney, all of this flurry of appearances creates for victims, their families and also news readers that they are being pursued by sharks, that humans are a source of energy. shark food.

Della Commons, a clinical psychologist and volunteer at Bite Club, a group that supports shark bite survivors and their families, said:The way people perceive the attack can lead to different outcomes.”

The Hayes family later joined the Bite Club as well. Dave Pearson is the president who founded the club after being bitten on the arm by a bull shark. He said that Keane soon learned an important lesson for himself: The boy accepted it.

No matter your injury, no matter what you have left, you have to keep moving forward.” Pearson said. “You have to accept that your life will change, but it will change for the better.”


This flood of media exposure creates for victims, families and even readers of the news that they are being hunted by sharks, that humans are a source of food for the sharks.

Back to my beloved place

Last summer, a gentle breeze blew across Keane’s skin as he rode his board and surfed the four-meter-high waves at Swami’s Beach. That’s about 3 kilometers south of where the shark left Keane three years ago in critical condition.

The boy, now 17, is topless, wearing a blue tank top and revealing sinewy red scars along his neck and one shoulder that has yet to fully heal. Even so, Keane still mastered the longboard. He also didn’t need to tie rubber bands to his legs, a standard accessory for surfers.

It’s day 193. Keane has decided to spend 301 days in the ocean in 2021. The teenager now loves the sea even more than before. Not only that, but Keane also became a new living witness in the club of people who were bitten by a shark.

He has spoken to various groups, most recently with more than 500 young people at a church event. There, Keane says that failure and fear are an inevitable part of any journey in life. It is important that you have the courage to overcome them.


Keane was surfing on a wave on Beacon Beach, where four years ago he was attacked by a shark.

Aside from his physical and mental struggles, Keane also endured bullying from some of his classmates, who called him silly names in connection with the shark attack.

But the Hayes family insisted that the community at large — most of their other classmates, lifeguards and doctors, as well as messages of goodwill from strangers — helped them get through the ordeal.

When one of the teenagers present at the church talk asked: Is Keane angry with God? The boy recalled his answer:

Sometimes, there’s a feeling”Why is this happening to me?”. But then I found that it was that event that opened me up to deep relationships and brought about countless other good things.

Refer Washington Post

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