July 11, 2012— -- 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've spent my whole life in the water, so I was out in front, leaving everybody in the dust, and 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.
"I pulled his head up and I wrapped my legs around him and then he just went and dove while I was just trying to hold onto him. But he did a death roll and knocked me off."
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.
Kaleb said that after he was out of the water, he told his friends to call 911, and he tried to use anything to stop the bleeding while making his way back to his car.
"I started grabbing some spider webs, and grabbing whatever I could. I put spider webs on my arm, because it would stop the bleeding," he said. "When I got up the bank, it was still bleeding, so I took my arm and put it between my legs, and squeezed to stop the bleeding. I had the bleeding stopped before the cops even got there."
Kaleb's aunt, LaDawn Hayes, said her nephew had to make a difficult decision.
"The gator took the arm," she 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 glad it went after me, chose me instead of one of my friends because I don't think they would have done the same thing and got out of it," Kaleb said.
"I'm just happy that I'm still alive... I could care less about the arm," he added.
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."
The family of Kaleb Langdale has started an account to accept donations on his behalf. Click here to donate.