CANCUN, Mexico - A Canadian nurse who found herself in a life-and-death struggle with a shark in Mexico this week said Friday the ferocious fish tried to drag her under the water as it repeatedly sank its teeth into her flesh.

Nicole Moore, a mother of two, said she was terrified as she tried to fight off the attack, which stained the water around her blood red.

Speaking for the first time about her harrowing ordeal Moore, 38, said the approximately 1.8-metre-long shark bit her three times, its teeth slicing into her arm, hand and leg.

"As soon as it bit, I knew what it was," Moore told radio station CKLW in Windsor, Ont.

"It got my arm. And when he or she -- whatever it was -- got hold of my arm, it bit down pretty good and she was trying to pull me under."

Moore spoke from a hospital in Cancun, where she's still recovering from serious injuries.

The nurse from Orangeville, Ont., who was initially misidentified by Mexican officials as Nicole Ross, was staying at the Cancun Caribe resort on a girls' trip with friends from her yoga class.

The others had gone shopping but she went to the beach to play volleyball. Covered in sand, she waded into shallow water to clean off.

Just down the beach, 20 to 30 swimmers ran from the water after a lifeguard blew a whistle as a shark moved toward the shoreline.

Men on personal watercraft swarmed the big fish to try to keep it from swimmers.

Moore said she heard the men yelling, but thought it was because she was too close to them.

She doesn't speak Spanish and didn't know they were warning her about the shark.

Within moments, the nurse found herself facing off with the shark.

"I just felt this first bump and then this bite," she said. "It bit me right on the upper thigh of the left leg."

Moore knew she had to get out of the water as the predator circled her, then came in for more.

"With my (free) hand, I just grabbed hold of its nose and just reached my arm out away from it and started running."

Witnesses said they saw blood in the water and heard her screaming.

Moore said she knew exactly how bad her injuries were when she was finally pulled to safety and gave instructions on how to bandage her.

Two other nurses arrived and took over as she started to fade.

"My first thought is my children. All I was thinking of was I have two kids," she said.

"I need to slow my heart rate down. I need to keep calm and I need to get help."

Moore had surgery and a blood transfusion at the Hospiten Cancun, where she was expected to remain for at least a week.

Doctors have told her they are waiting to see how much mobility she will regain.

The reality of what happened is starting to set in, said Moore.

"I'm extremely emotional about the whole thing now."

Moore's husband, a police officer, flew down to Mexico after the attack. Arrangements were still being made for her return to Canada.

In the interim, the nurse and her family are trying to stay positive.

"I've called myself sushi, someone else has called me fish food," she said.

"You've got to keep a sense of humour at times like this."