The Fascinating Story of "Stingray Jim"

The CNN recently published the unfortunate story of a woman who died after a stingray leaped from the water off the Florida Keys and struck her. The force of the blow pushed the woman backward, she hit her head on the boat deck and died.

The article mentioned a guy who was considerably more lucky and become a member of the exclusive club of few who have survived after being hit in the chest by a stingray barb.

Read the story of "Stingray Jim" below.

The famous TV personality Steve Irwin ("Crocodile Hunter") was killed when a ray's barb pierced his heart in September 2006.

The 81-year-old James Bertakis is the founder a successful home manufacturing company (started 1972). Just a month after Steve Irwin was killed, the retired Michigan businessman was fishing on his boat near Lighthouse Point, Florida, when a stingray leaped out of the water and landed in his lap. The fish lashed out with its tail and the barb penetrated his chest.

This is where the story ends for most people but Mr. Bertakis is no ordinary man. His son, James, told CNN that his father is a "tough customer": "He is extremely active; he puts a lot of people to shame. He never admits he's over 69 years old. He's quite a character."

Mr. Bertakis managed to drive the boat back to shore, bleeding and light-headed, laid down on the dock and had his granddaughter call 911. He was taken to North Broward Hospital, where a chest X-ray showed the barb in his chest. He was taken to surgery, but as doctors worked, the barb was pulled through his heart as it pumped. Without cardiac bypass equipment available, the surgeons closed the heart with the barb still inside, and airlifted him to Broward General Hospital where the barb was removed.

He spent 5 weeks on a ventilator and his recovery took several months but was fit enough to appear on The Today Show "feeling wonderful," surrounded by his family and ready to fish again.

Feeling that he was spared by a miracle, Bertakis has started The Stingray Jim Charity (stingrayjim.com) to raise money for charities that help children and the elderly.

And that is the story of Stingray Jim. If interested, you can even buy branded t-shirts, coffee mugs and other memorabilia from Cafe Press.

But wait a minute -- what happened to the stingray that attacked Stingray Jim? This is the only answer in the FAQ section of his web site: "Stingray Jim bears no ill-will toward the stingray that stung him. Sadly, the stingray expired in the commotion surrounding the attack. Stingray Jim asked his family to have it preserved and mounted as a reminder of how unexpected and precious life is. You can see Jim holding it on the front page of this website."

References:
Woman dies after ray strikes her. CNN.
Man who survived stingray attack ready to fish again. The Today Show.
Irwin might have survived: surgeon. Sydney Morning Herald.
Florida Stingray Victim 'Holding His Own.' CBS News.
Stingray attacks Fla. boater, lodges barb into his heart. The Detroit News.
Man stabbed in chest, heart by stingray barb. St. Petersburg Times.
How do stingrays kill? How Stuff Works.
Images source: Wikipedia, Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 1.0 license, by Dr. Tony Ayling, and GNU Free License.

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