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sharksA Navy diver who lost a hand and a leg in a Sydney Harbour shark attack is back diving and walking, and says he wants to return to work at the scene of the attack.

Doctors said navy clearance diver Paul de Gelder was lucky to survive the mauling by a 2.7-metre bull shark off Garden Island Naval Base on February 11.

After seven weeks in hospital, Mr de Gelder has told 60 Minutes he is determined to put the experience behind him.

He is already walking with a prosthetic leg, driving high performance cars and confronting his fears head-on by swimming with sharks at an Manly’s Oceanarium.

The extremely fit 31-year-old appeared comfortable examining graphic medical photographs of his injuries taken just before doctors decided to amputate his leg and hand.

Asked whether he planned on being a Navy clearance diver again, he said: “I do, I’ve never stopped”.

After five years as a clearance diver and working on peacekeeping mission in East Timor, he said his goal was to get back to working exactly where he was before the incident.

“That will be something that I’ll have to do,” he told the Nine Network.

“It’s going to be a tough bridge to vivid savagcross, but you can’t show weakness.”

Mr de Gelder gave an account of the e 6.30am (AEDT) attack while visiting the scene north of the Garden Island docks.

“It’s all a little bit nerve-wracking really,” he said.

“I kind-of wish I didn’t come out that day but you can’t change the past. You have to look to the future.”

He said that during equipment testing sharks were “everywhere” off Garden Island and the thought of the predators circling came into his mind “every time”.

“You just put it to the back of your mind and try not to worry about it.

“You have an obligation, a role and a job that you have to get on with so you don’t let the things that scare you stop you from doing that.”

He said sharks were in his mind on the morning the attack.

“Then it was in my leg,” he joked.

“I remember it all.”

Mr de Gelder was on the surface when the shark began mauling his leg and hand.

“I was swimming on my back. I had my fins on and a wetsuit on, and I was just checking my direction and when I got halfway back from turning around I got hit in the leg and looked down and there was a big toothy grin.

“(It was) grey, white, toothy and beady.

“I’d never seen a shark up close before. To see it like that was not something you expect.

“You look down and there’s a big monster attached to you and your mind goes into panic mode.”

At one point, the shark’s head was just 50cm away from Mr de Gelder’s face.

“We were pretty much staring eye to eye for about three or four seconds.”

In one bite it took his “whole hand and the whole of the back of my leg”.

“It just felt like getting hit in the leg with a plank of wood, you don’t feel the teeth go in or anything.

“I think the adrenalin, the panic, probably puts a numb on the pain and you don’t feel it.”

Four navy colleagues dragged him onto a boat and got him to shore before he was rushed to St Vincent’s Hospital in a critical condition.

“I thought he was dead,” Navy colleague Lane Patterson said.

Doctors said he most probably would have died in the water if the main artery in his leg had been severed.

He is now living with his girlfriend in an apartment paid for by the Navy and is being helped by his life-long friend Brock who quit his job to care for him.

But he is still getting used to the new hi-tech leg and will soon have a bionic hand fitted.

I get out of bed and it’s a bit of a struggle,” he said.

“It takes all your strength to sort of roll yourself out and get going in the mornings, physically.

“Mentally, I just want to bound out of bed, go and have breakfast and run down to the water and go for a swim but … baby steps.”

http://www.ninemsn.com.au

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