CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Tiffany Johnson thought she’d enjoy the final day of a seven-day cruise through the Caribbean in early June.
The 32-year-old mom of 3 and her husband, JJ, were snorkeling near the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. JJ felt seasick and swam back to the small boat that carried them back to sea.
Still in the water, Tiffany soon found herself staring face-to-face at a shark.
“I was just floating there and then I felt this bump and when I looked to see what I’d bumped into I was face-to-face with the shark,” Tiffany told PEOPLE Magazine.
In the altercation that ensued, the shark bit her arm off just below the elbow. Tiffany eventually broke free and began screaming and swimming back to the boat.
“I was finally able to break free and that’s because he had completely taken it and I remember pulling it out of his mouth and looking at it and realizing it was gone. I didn’t feel pain – it kind of caught me off guard and I didn’t really think of anything other than I needed to get away.” she said.
Doctors in the Bahamas were able to stop the bleeding but told her she needed to return to the U.S. immediately for surgery.
The couple and their children remained stranded for a while because they didn’t have their passports and the embassy was closed for the holiday. Luckily, several people pulled their efforts together and transported Charlotte via helicopter back to Charlotte, where she has since undergone two more surgeries.
Now, Tiffany is recovering and will receive a prosthetic for her arm in four weeks.
Most of all, she is happy to be back home caring for her kids.
“It’s been an experience I obviously wouldn’t want to wish on anybody, but I’m just grateful to be alive and hopefully my story will serve as inspiration for others,” she said. “We need more light in this world.”
Friends set up a GoFundMe page in hopes of getting Tiffany a better prosthetic than the one covered under her insurance.