A woman was left fighting for her life when a DOLPHIN nearly bit her foot off during a wild swim
A woman on the trip of a lifetime was left fighting for her life - when a DOLPHIN nearly bit her foot off during a wild swim. Traumatised, Claire Bye, 28, was swimming in a river in Santa Rosa de Yacuma, Bolivia, when a pink river dolphin suddenly sunk it's teeth into her right foot. After trying to get free she screamed for help, and onlookers frantically attempted to pull her out of the water. It took 20 seconds before the grey mammal released its grip and swam away, allowing Claire to climb out of the water to safety. She was ''horrified'' when she caught sight of the wound to find her foot had been partially severed and was ''pouring with blood''. Claire said: "I just kept thinking I was going to lose my foot. My skin was flapping around and I could see my bone." Claire was rushed to a local hospital a five-minute drive away, where her open wounds were seen to with 32 stitches. After four days her condition went downhill as she battled a potentially life-threatening infection and medics advised she be flown to La Paz, the capitol of Bolivia, for further treatment. After a surgical clean to treat the infection and remove the dead tissue, Claire had to wait another two weeks before she could fly home to the UK. Once back home, she underwent skin flap surgery, where living tissue was transferred from her groin to her foot, at Southmead Hospital, Bristol and spent a further two weeks there recovering. Claire, an acoustic consultant from Bedminster, Bristol, said: "I've never felt pain like it. "I remember seeing the dolphin out of the corner of my eye, and then it suddenly lunged at me. ''It wasn't the cute looking dolphins were used to seeing, it had a huge beak with a mouthful of spiky teeth. "I screamed and screamed, but it just wouldn't let go of me. "It felt like it had me for 15 minutes, but apparently it was about 20 seconds before it let go and swam away. "After the attack, I was taken to a tiny local hospital that was nothing like the hospitals we have. "They did the best they could, but I caught an infection that began to spread up my leg. "I honestly thought I'd lose my foot, or potentially my life." Claire set off on the trip of a lifetime in October, 2022 with plans to travel around South America and Central America for seven months. But on 3rd January 2023, only three months into her trip, Claire's travels were cut short by the life-changing injuries. Claire and her friend Louis set off earlier that day on a jungle trek to explore the Amazon Basin - the part of South America drained by the Amazon River. They were led by an experienced tour guide, and joined by a group of fellow tourists. The group stopped at the river and spent time swimming and playing with the wild pink river dolphins. Claire said: "There were mostly children swimming in the water with the dolphins. "I saw one child try to pick up a dolphin, which made me feel uneasy, so I decided to get out of the water and onto the pontoon. "That's when the dolphins started to turn aggressive, and a few people got out of the water with scrapes on their legs where they'd been bitten." Claire decided not to go back into the water, but instead opted to play with the dolphins with a water bottle, as demonstrated by their tour guide, from the safety of the pontoon. After a few minutes, Claire accidentally dropped the water bottle, so she hopped into the shallow water to retrieve it. Moments later, a dolphin lunged at Claire and bit down on her right foot. Terrified, Claire tried to climb out of the water, but the creature's firm grip prevented her from breaking free. Claire explained: "The water was brown, and I was facing away so I couldn't actually see it bite down on my foot. "The people on the pontoon tried to help pull me up, but I couldn't move because the dolphin wasn't letting go." The dolphin eventually released her foot, allowing her to climb out of the water. Her partially severed foot poured with blood, with the tendons and bones exposed. A bystander took off his t-shirt to tie around her foot to stem the bleeding, and Claire was carried to a nearby car and driven to the local hospital. Claire said: "It was only a five-minute drive, but I was in agony and screaming for pain relief. "When we arrived at the hospital my heart sunk - it was more like a farmyard than an actual hospital. "The people there were very kind and did the best they could to sew up my foot, but they didn't have any drugs . "They gave me a shot of anaesthetic, and my tour guide had to go out the local pharmacy to buy some pain relief. "After they sewed up my foot, I was taken into a room to recover. There was blood on the floor, and I wasn't sure if it was my blood or someone else's. "There was an ants' nest in the bathroom and there were no mosquito nets." Due to the lack of medical facilities in the area, Claire was transferred to Rurrenabaque, Bolivia - a four-hour drive away. Claire said: "We were warned that if it started to rain, we could get stuck because the roads were just mud. "It started to rain while we were driving, and the car was sliding around all over the place - it was terrifying." Once they arrived in Rurrenabaque, the hospital was full and Claire had to stay in a nearby hostel. Claire explained: "A man came to check on me four times a day to give me antibiotics, but he wasn't really paying attention to my foot." Her wound became infected, and she required urgent medical treatment from Cemes Hospital in La Paz, Bolivia's capital city. After frantic calls to the British embassy, Claire managed to fly to the capital the following day, where she underwent a surgical clean to treat the infection and remove the dead tissue. Claire, who is currently unable to work due to her injuries, said: "After the surgery, I basically had a huge hole in my foot. "I spent two weeks in hospital in La Paz before I was able to fly home to the UK. "By the time I eventually returned home, I went straight to A&E and was told I had another infection. "I had to have a second surgical clean, and then skin flap surgery where tissue from my groin was transplanted to my foot. "They also had to sew the blood vessels together to keep the blood flowing. "It's been really traumatic. "I've only recently been allowed to put pressure on my foot, and I don't know how badly my mobility will be affected once it heals. ''I personally think my foot looks a bit like a piece of pork wrapped in string at the moment. "I've seen a psychologist to help deal with the trauma - I used to have daily flashbacks of the attack. "I used to really love wild swimming and I hope to be able to do it in the future, but I'll never swim with dolphins again. ''I feel quite lost at the moment, I don't really know what to do. ''I wish I'd never gone back into the water, it's hard to think about how life would be if it happened. ''I was really disappointed that my travels were cut short so early. I had hoped I might be able to carry on, but as time went on I knew I'd have to come home. "But after such a trauma, I'm glad I'm at home where everything feels safe and familiar. "What should have been a beautiful experience changed my life forever, it's incredibly rare for dolphins to attack humans and I never thought it would happen to me." Investigations are currently underway to determine why the dolphins attacked, as other people have people have been bitten while swimming in the river since, despite there now being warning signs.