Mum gets new robotic arm after hers was ripped off by a shark while she was on holiday

Tiffany with her new arm, and getting tested for it (Picture: MDWfeatures/Tiffany Johnson)

Tiffany Johnson and her husband James had been snorkelling together, but he started to feel sick and decided to swim back to the cruise ship they were staying on.

Just as she watched him swim off, she came face-to-face with a shark.

It grabbed hold of her arm, ripping it at the elbow and as she was alone, she had no choice but to swim back to the ship, holding her amputated arm out of the water, so she could get help.

Getting back on board, they tried to stop the bleeding with a towel and she was rushed to the nearest hospital.

The 24-year-old had a five-hour-long surgery and since then, has had three more surgeries but in November 2017, five months after the shark attack, she was given a robotic arm.

The state of the art device has helped her adapt to her new life and care for her children Kylee, eight, Luke, seven and Natalie, four.

Tiffany, from North Carolina, USA, explains: ‘My husband and I were on the MSC cruise with the last stop in Nassau, Bahamas.

‘It was just after he left that I was attacked. The Shark Attack Institute out of the University of Florida, believe it was either a Tiger or Caribbean Reef.

Tiffany got her most recent arm a few months ago (Picture: MDWfeatures/Tiffany Johnson)

‘I believe it was a Tiger shark after seeing pictures a few months later. The thing I remember distinctly is the eyes.’

There was no suitable medical equipment on the boat and Tiffany spent about 30 minutes with just a towel to stop the bleeding.

She adds: ‘We were on that boat from the reef to the stop at Paradise Island to the main port for about thirty minutes with no tourniquet and only a beach towel to stop the bleeding.

‘Medically, it does not make sense why I am still alive. I didn’t even require a blood transfusion. It was an absolute miracle.’

Tiffany with her trial myoelectric arm with her children (Picture: MDWfeatures/Tiffany Johnson)

With doctors focused on just keeping her alive, it was some time before the impact of what had happened really hit.

Tiffany explains: ‘It didn’t all hit me until I was back in the hospital in Charlotte; it had been a whirlwind up until that point trying to figure out a way back to the United States.

‘When I really had time to digest it all, I cried a lot. Not really tears of depression, but rather overwhelming and pure thankfulness that I was alive.

‘I had just lived through a near-death experience and there were so many miracles as to why I was still here.

‘There were times when I felt like I was living a bad dream but then I would look down and realise, it wasn’t a dream – that I had to figure out my life as an amputee.’

Following her surgeries, including having a robotic hand fitted, Tiffany had to learn how to use her arm all over again and admitted that this was very challenging being a mum of three children.

‘I have had to figure out a new way to do things twice. Once one-handed before I was able to get the hand and then now with the use of the hand,’ she said.

‘Everything is different, it doesn’t function the same way as a hand does; it is more like a tool. It helps me, but I can’t expect it to be like my real hand. So that has been a journey of learning that I am still on even two and a half years out.

‘This latest version is only a few months old; I can now bend my elbow and touch my head, bring my arm in closer to my body, etc. It functions ok, but it is a process.

‘It is heavy and can be uncomfortable at times. But I am thankful to even be on this journey able to learn the process.

‘I had to learn a new normal and that wasn’t easy; being a mum of three, very independent by nature, and used to doing it all.’

Tiffany getting tests for her robotic arm done (Picture: MDWfeatures/Tiffany Johnson)

Throughout her journey, Tiffany has struggled with turning to others but she said she has had a huge amount of support.

She added: ‘It took me a while to adjust to asking for help, learning how to do things again, and mentally being ok with it all. But through it all, my faith is what drove me forward.

‘In the times where I felt desperate and so unsure, my faith kept my perspective focused on the things I could control.

‘Ultimately, I have learned that you don’t always have a choice in the circumstance you are in, but you always have a choice in how you respond.’

Tiffany is now helping other people using prosthetics to come to terms with what has happened to them, through Instagram and her website.

‘I have actually been able to connect with some patients through my surgeons and prosthetic clinic,’ she added.

‘They have asked me to talk with some patients that have had a hard time adjusting or who have had questions. It has been a blessing to be able to use this to help, encourage, and spread hope.

‘I have been given the unique opportunity to share this very message of hope and overcoming through my newly launched ministry; Be An Overcomer Ministry.

‘My goal is to use broken pieces of my tragedy to help give others hope and to give practical steps on how to overcome life’s adversities.’

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