Maui Surgeon Gains Fame as ‘The Shark Doc' - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Maui Surgeon Gains Fame as ‘The Shark Doc'

Dr. Peter Galpin Dr. Peter Galpin

By Leland Kim

MAUI (KHNL) --  So far this year, six people have had close encounters with sharks in Hawaiian waters.  That's up 50 percent from 2006.  Half of the attacks in the past two years happened on Maui, according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

A doctor on the Valley Isle has become the go-to guy for shark attack cases.  In this pride of Hawaii report, KHNL News 8's Leland Kim introduces us to a surgeon people call "the shark doc." 

A forewarning: some of the images you're about to see are very graphic.

Whether you're catching a wave, or just enjoying the sun, South Maui beaches attract people from all over the world.  They continue to come, despite a shark attack near this beach last month.

"I won't stop going in the ocean because of it, unless it was right then," said Suzan Cunningham, a visitor from Northern California.  "If I saw shark fins, I'd probably get out."

The latest shark attack happened just beyond a point at Wailea Beach Park. It's the sixth shark incident so far this year, with four of them resulting in serious injuries.

If you get bit by a shark on Maui, chances are, you'll end up in the capable hands of plastic surgeon Dr. Peter Galpin.

"I've been here on Maui for about thirteen years now, and during that period of time, I've taken care of a total of nine shark attack victims, including the gentleman most recently," said Dr. Galpin.

The patient, a visitor from Southern California, suffered nerve damage, which had to be repaired.  But it could've been much worse.

"There were a couple of cuts on this gentleman, a couple of bites on this gentleman that could've been potentially life threatening if they had been only an inch or so different from one side to the next," said Dr. Galpin.

A shark attack can cause major damage, just by the sheer power of its jaws.

"The biting force of a shark is about six tons per square inch," said Dr. Galpin.  "And so if they close their mouth on you, and they want to take whatever it is they're holding onto, they can take it."

Dr. Galpin says fixing up a shark bite victim is no different from taking care of a trauma patient.

After surgery, it's a long road to recovery.

"You're looking at two to three months of fairly limitation in activity just while you let the muscles heal up," said Dr. Galpin.  "And let the skin heal, and gain strength back, and go through therapy and everything like that."

While Maui's waters may be gaining a murky reputation, Dr. Galpin is gaining a reputation of his own, as the clear choice if you get bit by a shark.  And deservedly so, he's been able to save all of his shark bite patients.

For more on Dr. Galpin and his practice, click here or the link on this page.

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