You don’t leave a mate behind.
They were the only words racing through the mind of Shane Roche as he paddled furiously toward his mate Dale Carr who had just been savaged by a three metre white pointer shark off Lighthouse Beach.
The incident occurred last year, but for both men, the trauma of that day travels with them every time they step back into the water.
The pair are raising awareness about the impacts of post traumatic stress disorder, encouraging anyone who is struggling to seek out a mate and talk.
The magnitude of just what happened on that day in 2015 took some time to unfold for both men, but the human strength of those who came together on the beach, holding Dale’s gaping upper leg and buttocks wound together so he wouldn’t bleed to death, has given them a new appreciation for life.
Dale has nominated Shane and those involved in the rescue on that day for a Pride of Australia Medal – recognition he says embodies the Aussie spirit shown by his Irish mate in that horrific moment.
“The attack was silent. There was no ominous music leading up to it. Shane was only five metres away and saw the shark roll in the water. In that moment, neither of us had time to comprehend what had just happened,” Dale said.
It wasn’t until I had a moment where I thought I might not actually get home today that I felt fear.Shane Roche
Shane, a fledgling in the surf by Aussie standards, performed nothing short of a miracle to get his mate to shore.
“It wasn’t until I had a moment where I thought I might not actually get home today that I felt fear. I grabbed him not knowing where the shark was and paddled 150 metres to get him back to the beach and drag him up on to the sand. I was exhausted but something just kicked it,” Shane said.
And for the few people on the beach that day, Andrew Lavers, Lachlan Smith and doctor Jan Snow, adrenalin, presence of mind and instinct helped them save Dale’s life. He lost 2.5 litres of blood before arriving at hospital and his femoral artery was only millimetres away from being severed.
Lousie Finnigan at Port Base and Wendy Hall have also been instrumental in helping Shane continue to put one foot in front of the other.
Their shared story has helped them navigate the emotion that comes after such a traumatic event and has bonded them as friends forever.
“Trauma is trauma and can translate to anyone,” Dale said.
“When we go out surfing there are so many triggers – a kid happily screaming while playing on the beach, a dolphin fin, the whitewater – all of it triggers that fear.
“But the only way we can succeed is to talk to each other and get straight back in the water.”