HAPUNA BEACH, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow)- - A physician who was bitten by a tiger shark off the Big Island is opening up about his frightening ordeal. Ken Grasing, 58, works at the Kansas City VA Medical Center. He never imagined that he would end up needing surgery during his vacation in Hawaii.
"It was surreal. This shark was coming at me and I said, 'Yeah, it's coming at me. It's happening,'" recalled Grasing.
The Overland Park resident went snorkeling with his two sons on Wednesday at Hapuna Bay. After an hour, they headed to closer to the crowded beach. Grasing said he was standing in about 4 feet of water when the 10 to 12 foot tiger shark suddenly appeared and bit his left forearm.
"I'd heard that you should hit the shark in the face, but it's very difficult to hit the shark in the face because there's a lot of teeth that are sharp and it's moving fast and it's happening very quickly, but I did hit it in the side of the head," he said.
Grasing's sons were less than 30 feet away. He started yelling until a stranger helped him out of the water.
"I was really at its mercy. It's quite a magnificent animal. When you hit it, it's like hitting a wall. It's so solid. The mass of it, and of course, it's a sandpaper feeling," said Grasing.
Grasing suffered deep cuts to his left forearm and a gash on his left thigh. He was flown to the Queen's Medical Center for surgery to repair nine tendons, one nerve and a muscle.
"I'm expected to make a full recovery. It's just going to be a bump in the road for me," he said.
Authorities said the shark was spotted again less than two hours after the attack. They closed the beach near Waikoloa and put up warning signs. They reopened the shoreline on Friday morning after flyovers of the area to check for any sign of the shark.
Grasing said the encounter didn't ruin his vacation, but he's not sure if he'll ever go snorkeling again.
"I was just unlucky. It's just an animal that's trying to survive," he said.
Grasing conducts research on addiction at the Kansas City VA Medical Center. His family traveled to Hawaii to celebrate his son's upcoming high school graduation.