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College student bitten by shark returns home
On crutches, but alive and ‘happy’
Lambert High grad Colleen Malone and friend Taylor Runge, right, visit in the hospital after Malone was bitten by a shark in Jacksonville, Fla. - photo by For the FCN

When Colleen Malone returned Monday from a vacation in Jacksonville, Fla., about 20 neighbors filled the cul-de-sac to greet her.

“We had a big homecoming,” said Colleen’s mother, Terry. “Neighbors greeted us with all kinds of shark gear. They even made a T-shirt for her.”

A vacation doesn’t always warrant that much attention, but then it’s not every day a neighbor is bitten by a shark.

The bite happened on the first day of the trip for Malone, 19, a Lambert High graduate who attends Georgia Southern University.

“I hadn’t been in the water for an hour,” she said.

She and three friends were playing in the waves when — just like in the movies — Malone saw “a fin come up out of the water,” which was about 4 feet deep.

“I freaked out and started swimming toward shore,” she said. “I got on my back and started swimming on my back to see if something was chasing me.

“It popped out of the water and bit my foot.”

Malone pulled her foot away and started swimming as fast as she could toward shore.

“None of my friends believed that I actually got bit, because we’d been joking about it ever since we got in water,” she said. “They thought I just got nipped by a crab. When I got out of the water and everybody saw just how bad my foot was bleeding, that’s when everybody started freaking out.”

It was not the phone call Terry Malone was expecting when her daughter’s friend called her at work.

“She said, ‘Now Mrs. Terry, don’t freak out,’” Terry Malone said. “It didn’t really hit me until I got down there and saw her in person.

“Nobody could believe it ... even though it was down by the beach, nobody had seen anybody with a shark bite before. Whenever they’d take off the bandages, there’d always be a group of people.”

While her daughter said the incident won’t stop her from going back to the beach, Terry Malone said she’ll be hesitant — though the odds are in her favor.

“Never in your wildest dreams would you think this would happen to one of your children,” said the mother of three. “I’ve always said the chances are so slim. And I say now that it’s happened to someone we all know, the chances have gone way down for all of us.”

Still on crutches, Colleen Malone was cleared to go home Monday, after more than 50 stitches, an MRI, X-ray, blood and tissue cultures and many bandages.

Since the incident, she has managed to keep her recovery on the light side.

“After I got out of the water, I was hyperventilating and freaking out,” she said. “But I looked at my friend and said, ‘Dude, I just got bit by a shark.’ And we just started laughing. From then on, I was all smiles because there was nothing I could do.

“I still had my foot, I was still alive and I had to be happy about it.”