Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Slidell Boy's Arm Retrieved from Gator's Belly

Wildlife officials removed the severed arm of an 11-year-old Slidell, La., boy from the stomach of a large alligator today and rushed it in a cooler to Ochsner Hospital in New Orleans for reattachment. Slidell is across Lake Pontchartrain north of the Crescent City.

The boy, Devin Funck, who reportedly was admitted to the hospital earlier, had been playing by a lake at Kingspoint near Slidell with friends when the alligator attacked him and tried to pull him under.

NOLA metropolitan area residents are following this story closely. You can read more and see video (warning says graphic) at WDSU and also read the story at NOLA.com, where they also have a map and pictures.

The medical editor for WDSU, Dr. Corey Hebert (pronounced like aa-bear), said the surgery to save the boy's arm will be long and complicated, made more challenging by loss of blood and the time it took to retrieve the arm from the alligator's stomach, but the child may benefit from being young.

When I moved here last year and stayed for a while with my brother in Slidell, I sat in the hospital with my mom who'd broken her leg. Flipping channels one night I came across a show that featured a deputy catching an alligator in some body of water that looked strangely familiar. I mumbled, "Wait, I recognize that. That looks like Slidell." Yes, it was Slidell and I'd tuned into a local cable show covering the work of local parish sheriff deputies. Apparently alligators have become a nuisance and pose more danger to humans in the area since Hurricane Katrina caused wildlife habitats to shift. I thought, "Oh, lord, what have I moved back to." I'm afraid of snakes and really have no desire to meet an alligator personally unless it's part of one on a stick. I wish our wildlife no harm, but don't want to be chummy.

My prayers are with Devin's parents/guardians. He and two girls were on the Kingspoint lake unattended, but so far the St. Tammany Parish sheriff's office has not charged anyone with negligence.

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