04/21/2004 at 12:00 AM EDT
A surfer whose leg was torn apart in a shark attack credits a "beautiful wave" with saving his life, reports the Associated Press. Mark Butler, 40, was surfing alone on Sunday in northern New South Wales, Australia, when a shark took a bite out of his left leg. "I thought I was going to die," he said. "The water was instantly full of blood and I just thought it's going to come back and have a second go at me and I'll die here now." But at that moment, Butler said, "a wave came, a beautiful wave, that just took me right to the sand." Once on the beach, Butler tied his surf board's leg rope around his thigh to try to the bleeding and staggered 1,500 feet to find help. After losing a quart of blood, he eventually made it to the hospital, where surgeons repaired the wound with 80 stitches. Dr. Jack Ashworth, who treated Butler, said he is lucky to be alive. "I would have expected (Butler) to collapse in the water and not make it back to shore," Alsworth said. There have been about 19 shark attacks in Australia in the past five years.