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Teen who lost hand to gator now fights for normality

Tim Delano lost his left hand in July in an alligator attack during an afternoon swim with friends in a canal near Alligator Alley. He saved himself by punching the whirling reptile. 

Naples Daily News

Tim Delano lost his left hand in July in an alligator attack during an afternoon swim with friends in a canal near Alligator Alley. He saved himself by punching the whirling reptile. 

GOLDEN GATE ESTATES — Tim Delano expected his life to change in 2010, but not for the reasons it did.

Delano graduated from high school in June with plans for a career as a mechanic.

Then in July, he was attacked by a 10-foot alligator while swimming in an Estates canal. He survived by punching the gator, but he lost his left hand.

Five months later, the 19-year-old is trying to move on with his life.

Memories of the attack still haunt him.

Delano and some of his friends were at a popular swimming hole known as the Crystal at dusk, when the gator grabbed his left arm and pulled him underwater.

Delano recalls seeing the gator's head. He also remembers the beast beginning a death roll.

After he escaped, he discovered what he had lost.

"I saw my bone. I had no hand. That was it," Delano told the Naples Daily News in July.

Delano made the initial 911 call, while a high school friend, A.J. Raulerson, drove him toward a Golden Gate fire station for help.

He was rushed to surgery.

A trapper caught Delano's attacker. The gator was split open and the hand was removed, but doctors couldn't reattach it.

For a time, he struggled even to deal with the reality of his loss.

Delano was outfitted with a hook and a prosthetic hand, a gift from Shriners International. However, the right-handed Delano said he mostly avoids using the prosthetic, even in public.

He has tried the prosthetic to play the drums, one of his hobbies in high school, but hasn't gotten the hang of it yet.

Compounding the struggle, the Healthy Kids insurance program dropped him when he turned 19, and Social Security has denied him disability aid.

He said that, essentially, he was told he's not "disabled enough."

"What do they want, for me to lose another arm?" he asks.

But in a lot of ways, Delano's life is typical for a high school grad out job hunting these days.

He said he applied for numerous jobs, without luck.

Debbie Delano said she doubts her son's trouble finding a job has anything to do with the accident, because he's filled out most of his applications online and followed up with phone calls.

Delano says he hasn't given up on becoming a mechanic and may wait to go to school for it.

"I think it was a life-changing experience," said Delano's friend, Virginia Mount. "He will still figure out what he wants to do in life."

Despite setbacks, he has learned how to be more appreciative of what he has, especially his friends, Delano said.

"I've got to care for the people that are with me," he said, because he's learned "it could change in a second."

Mount said Delano has changed, becoming more cautious.

"I think he's more aware of things," she said. "He thinks about things before he does them."

Delano said he has revisited the site of his attack, but not to swim.

"I just sat there," he said.

Teen who lost hand to gator now fights for normality 12/31/10 [Last modified: Friday, December 31, 2010 7:05pm]

    

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