Help Mike Pay For Shark Bite

What started as a regular day at work, instantly became a life-threatening situation, when Mike was bitten by a shark on his forearm.

Mike, no stranger to the sea, has worked on the water as a deckhand for over ten years, with four seasons working for fishing charters. He had moved to Galveston in the spring of 2017 to fish Galveston Bay, and to be with his girlfriend, Alexandra, as she works toward her graduate degree at Texas A&M University.

As stories so often begin, Saturday, April 28th started as a beautiful day. Mike, the deckhand, and his captain took out a group of four customers on a private fishing charter looking for redfish and sharks by the jetties that mark the entrance to Galveston Bay.  Towards the end of the trip, they hooked into a nice Sandbar Shark. They pulled the shark up to the side of the boat where Mike went to handle the fish by the leader. The shark thrashed, biting Mike on the left forearm. The shark severed tendons, nerves, an artery and left a large open wound.  Captain Sharky speedily returned the boat to the dock.  An ambulance met them at the wharf.

He was immediately sent to two hours of surgery where his wound was cleaned and assessed.  Shark bites are notoriously ‘dirty’ so the team started cultures swabbed from his bite, started antibiotics; then Mike and his family waited until Monday for the hand specialist to arrive.

On Monday, the medical team met to review Mike’s bite wound.  He would need major reconstructive surgery of one major tendon, the nerve that carries feeling to the top of his hand over his thumb and a skin graft to close the area that the shark had ripped away.  In addition,  he would lose an artery and a tendon as his wrist and hand could fully function with only one of each (there are two major arteries and tendons in the wrist).  

On Tuesday, Mike was wheeled into surgery around 6:30 am.  Reconstruction was difficult, and he was in the operating room for five hours.  A skin graft was taken from his left thigh and his wrist was splinted and immobilized for healing.  

Mike was finally discharged to recover at home on Wednesday, four days after the incident. 

We are raising money to help Mike through this challenging period.  He is left-handed so it will be difficult for him to work.  He is facing a long recovery with a lot of physical therapy. 

Unfortunately, Mike does not have medical insurance, therefore all expenses will be out of pocket.  

Mike's expenses include ambulance, trauma care, hospital stay, two surgeries, medical consultation (vascular specialist, infectious disease, plastic surgery, nerve specialist, hand specialist, and occupational therapy), prescriptions and miscellaneous medical expenses, as well as lost wages.

Mike's medical expenses are currently at $138,000. However, not all services have been billed and it is difficult to estimate what is still ahead of him. 

Beyond his job as a deckhand, Mike holds multiple part-time jobs. He works as a rescue diver for NASA’s Space Camp program and drives for Uber. 

Outside of work, Mike is an avid fisherman, artist, and outdoors-man. He enjoys playing guitar, painting, mountain biking, basketball, batting cages, traveling, and camping. 

Below are a few recent photos of Mike in his element, followed by photos of the injury. 

Mike painting birds at the High Island Rookery this spring:

Mike loves fishing for flounder:

Mike and Alex recently got engaged on a beach in Galveston:

The photos below may be difficult to look at, but we included them so that you can understand the severity of the injury. We will also post pictures and updates as they become available, so that you can see his progress.

This photo was taken in the ER trauma unit immediately following the incident:

This is Mike's forearm after his first surgery, where his wound was cleaned and the damage evaluated. The doctors wanted to save as much of his skin as possible. The shiny white part on the lower right side of the wound is a part of his severed tendon:

Mike after his second reconstructive surgery had been completed:

All support received will go directly to Mike, and will be used wisely, to cover medical costs and assist with living expenses until the tides turn and he is able to return to work.  Please know that we - Mike, his friends, family and loved ones, are eternally grateful for any gifts received. God Bless.

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  • steven Scheppmann 
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Mike Ruthenbeck 
Galveston, TX
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