Paige Winter opens up about shark attack, healing, ocean advocacy

CARTERET COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- She lost her left leg and two of her fingers, but Paige Winter is not letting those setbacks slow her down.

Winter, 17, was swimming in waist-deep water off the North Carolina coast on June 2 when a shark bit her.

Her father, who was exiting the ocean at the time, rushed back into the water, punched the shark, freed his daughter and brought her back to the shore.

After a month in the hospital, Winter's friends threw her a homecoming celebration at the New Bern restaurant where she used to work.

Winter is now undergoing several types of aggressive physical therapy every day. Her physical therapists told GMA that she is doing phenomenally well.

"(I'm) a little nervous about my hands and the therapy I have to do with them," Winter said. "It's going to be pretty rigorous."

Doctors said she should regain about 95 percent function in her right hand, but they're less sure how much function she'll be able to regain in her left hand.

Despite the challenges, Winter's positive attitude remains strong.

"When I was in the water, I did not see my life pass before my eyes," she said. "I saw my future flash before my eyes, and all the things I wanted to do, and that's why I got out of there."

Winter said she's received hundreds of cards and gifts from well-wishers. One of the most prominent was Iron Man actor Robert Downey Jr.

Downey Jr. was inspired by her positivity and immediate push to protect sharks after one caused her so much pain. In fact, Downey Jr. invited Winter to be part of his new sustainability initiative.

Winter said they have been in regular contact since then.

"He said we are going to check in every so often and talk about what we're going to do because I can tell he's all for this," she said. "He is all for helping the ocean."
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