Florida Boater Survives Stingray Barb

Stingray
FT. LAUDERDALE -

Like most of us, Chris Bertakis knows about Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin's fatal encounter with a stingray's barb.

He also now knows that his octogenarian father was struck with a similar barb - and in the heart, too:

BERTAKIS: I've never heard of that happening until last month. And to hear of it happen again to our father, it was shocking.

Chris's very athletic 81 year old father, James Bertakis, was on his boat in the Intracoastal Waterway showing some visitors the mansions of Lighthouse Point outside Fort Lauderdale. Out of nowhere, a five-foot-wide spotted eagle ray flew across the boat - and as Bertakis attempted to bat it away, a two-and-a-half inch barb pierced his chest - penetrating his heart.

Broward Medical Center vascular surgeon Eugene Costantini says Bertakis's pumping heart actually made the stingray's barb even more dangerous:

CONSTANTINI: And once it contacted the heart muscle, it's was actually pulled along by contractions of the heart muscle further into the heart.

Pulling out the serrated barb could have killed Bertakis as it did Steve Irwin.

Instead, surgeons threaded it out - much like handling a fish hook. Dicey things can still happen but doctors say Bertakis has a very good chance of a full recovery.

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