Meet Krishna Thompson, 47: Shark attack survivor
From “The Against All Odds Club”
By Brooke Lea Foster
Psychology Today – April 2013
August 2001, Krishna Thompson and his wife flew to the Bahamas to celebrate their 10-year wedding anniversary. Thompson’s wife didn’t enjoy swimming, so one morning he woke up before her to get some extra time in the ocean. The water was usually crystal clear, but that morning it was murky and rough. Thompson was treading water when he noticed a shark fin coming toward him. He calmly backed off, hoping the animal would go away, but the 10-foot bull shark swam through his legs, its slippery skin grazing his right knee.
Then, without warning, the animal snapped back and took Thompson’s left leg in its mouth. It dragged Thompson underwater, shaking him like a rag doll. He thought about how he was going to die without ever having children. He feared that he would drown, which panicked him. Thompson summoned all of his strength, reached down toward his leg, and punched the shark in the face, which surprised the animal enough to release its jaws.
Thompson swam to shore and collapsed. When he caught sight of his left leg, all he saw was a broken tibia bone—there was no flesh left, no arteries, just bone. He remembers staring at the overcast sky and thinking: “I beat this shark, and I’m going to live to tell the world about it.”
As Krishna Thompson lay on the beach after the attack, his left leg ripped up to nothing but bone, it occurred to him: I am the man who conquered a shark. He approached his recovery with similar resolve, working hard to chase away any negative thoughts with positive ones—even after learning his leg injury would require amputation.
Thompson counted down the days for six months until he could return to work on Wall Street. In 2002, on his first day back, he didn’t drive in to New York City, which would have put less pressure on his leg. He insisted on taking the one-hour commuter train, pushing his way onto packed subway cars, and walking up the steps out of the station. He’s taken the same route in the decade since, his leg often throbbing at the spot where it’s connected to the prosthesis. Still, when a woman asked him to help carry her stroller up the subway steps recently, he didn’t tell her he had a prosthetic leg. Instead, he nodded and said: “We’ll just have to go slowly.” He held onto the railing with one hand, the stroller in his other, and used his good leg to inch his way up the steps.
Sometimes he stands in the mirror and shudders at what he calls his “deformed leg.” But he’s quick to remember: It could have been worse. “Yes, you lost a leg,” he’ll tell himself. “But you have a whole other leg. You have two arms. You can walk.”
Today, he and his wife have a daughter, Indira, 10, and a son, Chad, 5. As his kids have grown, he’s realized the attack can still rattle him. He and his family were swimming in the pool one day when his son accidentally kicked his foot—and a shot of panic rushed through him. He nearly didn’t let his daughter go on a class trip to a local beach. “I was scared they wouldn’t watch her closely enough,” he says.
When a Manhattan police officer was hit by a car and lost his leg, Thompson felt compelled to visit the man in the hospital. He strutted into the room in a suit, walked over to the windows, and put his leg up on the windowsill. “I heard about your accident,” Thompson told the officer, whom he’d never met. Then Thompson lifted his pants leg and showed the young officer his prosthetic leg. The officer’s face lit up, and Thompson said to him: “You’re going to be fine.”
In honor of all those who triumph over adversity with
courage, perseverance, determination and sheer will.
Your souls shine and your spirits inspire us with hope.