Singapore doctor saved my son's arm: Father of surfer attacked by shark in Bali

Singapore doctor saved my son's arm: Father of surfer attacked by shark in Bali

Dr Bill Boarman says his son Ryan “wants to start surfing tomorrow” after treatment at Raffles Hospital.

Ryan Boarman

SINGAPORE: The father of an American surfer who was attacked by a shark off the Indonesian island of Bali has credited a Singaporean doctor for saving his son’s arm.

Ryan Boarman, 26, was bitten by a shark on his right elbow on Apr 25. After spending some time in Balinese hospitals, he was transferred to Singapore’s Raffles Hospital last Friday (Apr 29), where he went under the knife of orthopaedic surgeon Dr Lim Yeow Wai.

The San Diego native was still in a lot of pain and unwilling to speak to media, said his father Dr Bill Boarman on Wednesday (May 4).

But the elder Boarman, a wildlife research scientist, said his son was also “a lot better than he was a few days ago” and “definitely on the way to recovery”.

“Ryan will be discharged on Friday or Saturday, depending on his ability to handle the pain for the 24-hour trip back to San Diego,” said Dr Boarman. “Once we’re back there, he’ll go straight home. He will not need a hospital there, but will be under doctor's care.”

Ryan Boarman Bill Boarman Lim Yeow Wai

Shark attack survivor Ryan Boarman, with his father and doctor. (Photo: Justin Ong)

Dr Lim said Ryan was “recovering well” considering the extent of his injury. The American had suffered a 360-degree laceration around the elbow, with the shark biting, pulling off and shearing away at least eight muscles and tendons and injuring one nerve and one ligament, explained Dr Lim. This was his third time treating a shark bite in 12 years of orthopaedic practice.

“I don't think he will need any more surgeries after this. But after six weeks of rest, he will need intense rehabilitation to regain his range of motion and strength,” said Dr Lim.

Dr Lim Yeow Wai

Dr Lim Yeow Wai explaining Ryan Boarman's recovery process. (Photo: Justin Ong)


Dr Boarman said his son, who works as a wildlife biologist, had been surfing since 10 “almost every day” in San Diego and around the world, with no prior run-ins with sharks.

The Bali surf had started out like any other, said Dr Boarman as he related his son’s account of the incident.

“He was sitting on the board, waiting for the waves to come in when he was suddenly knocked from behind and at the same moment felt an intense pain on his elbow,” said Dr Boarman. “He looked over to the side and saw a shark swimming away, about two metres in length - it's all consistent with it being a bull shark but we don't know for certain.”

“He realised he had been bitten so he started swimming, but a wave came and he knew he could get in quicker if he took it so he caught it, stood up on his board and surfed all the way in while holding up his elbow with a flap of skin hanging out,” added Dr Boarman.

“He told me afterwards it was a really good wave, a good ride and he really enjoyed it!”

When Ryan got to the beach, he collapsed and blacked out for about 30 seconds or so, said the father. Help arrived shortly after and he was driven to a clinic where the wound was stitched up.

“The first moment I heard the news, my heart dropped,” said Dr Boarman. “But the next words were that he's okay, he'll be alright … My wife was with me and we both had mixed feelings like ‘oh my god this happened’ but also relief like it could have been much worse so easily. His arm could have been completely torn off or he could have lost his life if the shark bit his stomach. I don't think he could have survived that.”

Dr Boarman said he barely slept for the next three days, until he boarded a plane to Singapore, which he described as “the closest place with really good hospitals and doctors”.

He added: “Ryan was very happy to get out of Indonesia. He felt they were not at all equipped or trained to deal with any kind of serious problem. The hygiene was not great. He had a bad fever and his friends had to tell the nurses to take his temperature.”

“They could not have patched up his arm like Dr Lim has. Ryan feels much better about the whole thing now."

“He wants to start surfing tomorrow,” quipped Dr Boarman. “Dr Lim says he should be able to start surfing again in six months, and I'm sure he will."


An online crowdfunding campaign was also started by Ryan’s cousin Jamie Butow, in bid to raise US$35,000 to help cover expenses needed to transfer the American to Singapore, as well as medical costs.

Asked if his son’s insurance was insufficient to cover the above, Dr Boarman said: “It's still not clear on what it's going to cover. Usually, they don't cover transport. Usually they will cover medical expenses but they haven't told us if they're going to. And other associated recovery expenses won't be covered. So the campaign will help with transport here and all the way home.”

As of 7pm on Wednesday it had raised US$25,791.

Bill Boarman

Dr Bill Boarman speaking to media on behalf of his son Ryan. (Photo: Justin Ong)

“The US$35,000 target was just a guess we made about how much it might cost,” said Dr Boarman. “We’re extremely pleased, impressed and surprised that we've gotten this much. Ryan feels very humbled that so many people care - over 600 have donated, most of whom don't know him - and it's helped him make it through the difficult times, knowing he's got that kind of support.”

“One way or another, we will manage the costs. He is far more important to my wife and I than any money we may have to try and come up with,” said Dr Boarman. “Even if we had to mortgage our house, that's just material. We are much more interested in making sure he's fully recovered."

Source: CNA/hs