Florida Teen 'Happy' to Be Alive After Losing Arm to Alligator

Good Morning America

A Florida teenager was all smiles a day after losing part of his arm to a 10-foot-long alligator while swimming in a river with friends.

Kaleb Langdale, 17, smiled at the hospital Tuesday and posted a photo of his bandaged arm on Facebook.

Kaleb was swimming with his friends in the Caloosahatchee River in Moore Haven, Fla., Monday when temperatures were hitting triple digits.

"I got about 30 yards from the bank and my friend Abraham Cisneros starts yelling, 'Gator,'" Kaleb said.

Within seconds, Kaleb found himself face-to-snout with the alligator.

"When the gator's about right here from me, I grabbed that skin up underneath him trying to control him, and he just kept going," Kaleb said.

The gator then dragged the teen under the water, but Kaleb managed to break free and start swimming away. It wasn't long before the gator caught up to him, again.

"He started pulling me down," Kaleb said. "So I put my feet and I put it on his mouth, and I tried to jerk my arm off ... and I started swimming back but I felt like a little tug."

The gator pulled him under water once more, but this time Kaleb broke free for good, although without the lower half of his right arm.

"The gator took the arm," Kaleb's aunt, LaDawn Hayes, said. "He felt the bones break, felt everything kind of go and made a choice at that point that it was either his arm or his life."

Kaleb's friend Matt Baker said, "He came up out of the water like Superman or something, waving to us saying, 'Hey, my arm's gone, call an ambulance.'"

Kaleb swam back to the river bank and pinched his arm between his legs and waited for the paramedics to arrive.

The teen's mother, Felinda Langdale, rushed to the scene. "The cops came up to me and said, He's fine,'" she said. "He's really fine."

While Kaleb was being treated at the hospital, authorities caught and killed the alligator to retrieve the teen's arm. By the time the arm arrived at the hospital, however, too much time had passed to reattach it. Surgery to close his wounds was successful, but the family does not yet know when Kaleb will leave the hospital.

"I'm just happy that I'm still alive... I could care less about the arm," Kaleb said.

View photo

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Kaleb has been in such good spirits that he wanted his aunt to snap a photo of him with his bandage so he could post it on Facebook.

"You're on your pain meds, I'm not going to do that," Hayes told him. But he insisted, telling her, "Let everyone know I'm OK and I can still drive my airboat. Let them know it was my right arm and not my left."

Kaleb has a message for those who visit him in the hospital: "If you come here to visit me, you cry? You're leaving."

Kaleb Langdale's family has set up an account to raise money for his prosthetic arm. Click here for more information.

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