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'Flocking to help': Shark bite response renews doctor's faith

Posted July 17, 2015

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— Andrew Costello will recover after being bitten by a shark July 1 at an Ocracoke beach, but his is not the only life touched by the attack.

Jim Williford, of Greensboro, was among the first to reach Costello. The retired doctor and soldier tapped his training to help and came away changed himself.

Even during a beach vacation, Williford said, the depression and bi-polar disorder that hastened his retirement provide an undercurrent of sadness. The shark attack, and the response of those on the beach, broke through that fog.

Williford saw total strangers rush to Costello's aid.

"That’s the thing that really gave me a good feeling,” he said. "There's no external authority making these people do anything. All these people were just flocking to help this man."

When Costello emerged from the water, he was bleeding heavily. He had injuries to his rib cage, hip, lower leg and both hands.

Williford's medical background helped him to immediately recognize the seriousness of the situation.

"He could die, so the key thing is just to clamp down on the artery," Williford said.

As Williford applied pressure, a life guard arrived with a First Aid kit.

Costello remained calm, even joking with his rescuers.

“The whole experience helped lift me up,” Williford said.

"Up to that point, I was kind of going through the motions on vacation, and after that I felt less depressed and enjoyed the vacation more.”

The teamwork, the altruism and the ability to use his training helped Williford turn a corner.

"What that experience did for me was it helped erode some of my cynicism," he said.

Costello has been undergoing treatment at Vident Medical Center in Greenville. Doctors expect him to make a full recovery.


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