VIDEO/PHOTOS: Estates teen contemplates life without left hand after alligator attack

Teen talks about gator attack

Tim Delano recalls fighting with the gator

Anyone interested in helping the Delano family pay its medical bills can go to any Bank of America in the country and make a donation to the “Tim Delano Medical Fund.”

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, The Palmetto Ridge High School marching band is holding a car wash at E’s Country Store, at the intersection of Immokalee Road and Oil Well Boulevard. All proceeds will go to the “Tim Delano Medical Fund.”

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— Rolling under water, his left hand crushed between the jaw of a 10-foot alligator, 18-year-old Tim Delano couldn’t believe it was real.

“I was just spinning around closing my eyes thinking ‘This is just a bad dream. This is a nightmare. This is not really happening,’” Delano said Friday morning during a tearful press conference at Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers, his first public appearance since the Sunday evening attack.

“And I shortly realized this is for real, I opened my eyes, I saw the gator’s face,” Delano said. “During the death roll I could see its mouth, and my pure instinct was taking my leg, starting to balance, and I started taking my fist and trying to push it away, punching it, whatever I could do.”

Delano pulled away from the gator, losing his left hand in the struggle.

Although an officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission eventually killed the gator and found Delano’s hand in its stomach, doctors weren’t able to reattach it.

On Friday, dressed in a red, sleeveless T-shirt and shorts, Delano’s left arm was bandaged around the wrist.

As terrifying as the attack was, the realization that he would never have a left hand initially caused Delano to break down, he said. When visitors stopped by on Monday, he noticed one thing in particular.

“All I could look at was their left hand, and I just started freaking out,” Delano said. “I was just thinking, I don’t have a left hand. How am I going to live? How am I going to get on with my life?”

Delano – who luckily is right-handed – spent four years in the Palmetto Ridge High School drum line before graduating this spring. He took a construction job just days before the attack.

His life will be forever altered by the attack, but Delano said he’s been told a prosthetic hand will help.

“I want to be a mechanic on boats, a diesel mechanic on cars,” Delano said. “The doctor said that with this hand, you don’t have worry about that. You’ll still be able to finish your dream, be able to still do what you want to do in life.”

The attack occurred sometime before 9:30 p.m. on Sunday at “the Crystal,” a popular swimming hole in a canal off of Alligator Alley near Everglades Boulevard. Delano was swimming there with three friends as the sun went down.

He recalled being pulled into the water, hearing hissing noises and feeling the chomp on his hand.

At first Delano said his friends thought he was playing a joke on them. That was until they heard him screaming and saw the bone protruding from his arm, where his hand should have been.

“I heard a splash, and I thought they were playing around because we had been jumping in and out of the water,” said Virginia Mount, 16, who is Delano’s friend.

Delano wrapped his arm in a towel, and called 911 as a friend drove him north on Everglades Boulevard and then west on Golden Gate Boulevard until they met up with a responding ambulance.

Along the way, Delano called his mother, telling her: “‘Hey mom, my hand got taken off by an alligator. I’m on my way to the hospital. I love you. Goodbye. I hope to see you again.”

Delano’s mother, Debbie Delano, who sat by her son’s side on Friday, caressing his arm as he addressed reporters, has struggled to sleep while her son is in the hospital.

“As long as my baby is OK, I’m good,” she said.

On Friday, Delano also addressed previous comments he made about having the Crystal closed to swimmers.

He now says he doesn’t want to close it down, but worries that someone else could be attacked by an alligator or snake. Delano suggested signs warning swimmers of the dangers.

“I know its a good place to come out and chill,” he said. “Trust me, I’ll go out there again at the Crystal. I won’t go swimming. But I’ll go out there and chill. Go fishing out there.”

Delano was discharged Friday afternoon. Eventually, he’ll start working with a surgeon on the prosthetic hand.

Without his left hand there will be difficulties, but Delano understands he is lucky to be alive.

“That alligator was going to kill me,” he said. “It wasn’t just going for a daily swim, it was going for food. I don’t care what time of the day.

“It was either going to kill me for dinner or try to take a snack.”

Connect with Ryan Mills at www.naplesnews.com/staff/ryan-mills/

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