Hawaii Shark Attack Victim: “God Gave Me A Wake Up Call”

As reported on www.honoluluadvertiser.com

KANE’OHE — Todd Murashige will have to live with the vicious scars from an attack that ripped his thigh open to the bone — and with the feelings he has for the shark that bit him.

Todd Murashige

After two months of recovery and rehabilitation, Murashige is now grateful to the shark that changed his life.

“More and more, I’m happy that I got bit,” Murashige said yesterday in his home in Kane’ohe, with the mangled surfboard he was riding on Sept. 9 by his side. “To me, it was a wake-up call. Somebody was trying to get my attention to tell me to be a better person.”

Murashige, 40, has not been able to work as a self-employed tile setter since he was attacked while sitting on his 5-foot-9 Kerry Tokoro custom board at his favorite surf spot, Crouching Lion. So no income has come from his side to keep up with the rent and other expenses for a family with two young children.

He originally hoped that the medical plan for his wife, Heather, a teacher at Salt Lake Elementary School, would cover all of his operations and medical expenses. But Todd and Heather now find themselves with several thousand dollars worth of medical bills — mostly physicians’ services — that Heather’s HMSA plan won’t pay, she said.

So they’re rapidly running out of the money they had been saving to buy a home of their own.

At the same time, they’re also humbled — and embarrassed — that friends and family are organizing a fundraiser for them at The Willows restaurant on Dec. 3.

“If it was somebody else, anybody else — bam! — I’d be there helping out,” Heather said. “It’s so hard being on the receiving end. If I could get away with it, I would hide in a bush that night.”

But all of their money problems are second to the remarkable change that Heather has seen in her husband.

“Before, everything was all about Todd,” Todd said. “Surfing, surfing, surfing, surfing, surfing, surfing, surfing. I should have been dead that day. Now, God has slapped me right in the face, and said, ‘Open your eyes, boy.’ He not only saved me, he saved my family, too.”

Whenever the waves were kicking, Todd would stay out surfing long after the sun went down and wouldn’t come home until after 8 p.m., when the kids had already eaten and were getting ready for bed.

He was a championship amateur surfer, with bookcases full of trophies to prove it, whose prayers were mostly for clean waves and, perhaps, another victory.

“‘Send me the right waves, put me in the right spot,’” Todd would say before a meet.

His smile caught Heather’s attention at Eastside Grill in March 1996, while she was a student at the University of Hawai’i.

They had a couple of children — Tyler’s now 10 and Tiffany’s 8 — got married in 2001 and had their share of marital tensions.

“Surfing came first in his life,” Heather said. “It was hard for me as his wife. I grew up that the most important thing was family. But we were second to Todd, maybe third following his job and surfing. If you knew him before, it’s very obvious there’s a difference in him.”