SLIDELL, La. – Doctors were unable to reattach an 11-year-old Louisiana boy's arm that was retrieved from the belly of the alligator, a family friend said Thursday.
Doctors at Ochsner Hospital worked Wednesday night to reattach Devin Funck's left arm, which had been rushed to a hospital after its recovery about 3 1/2 hours after the attack. But family friend Cory Dunn said the effort was unsuccessful.
"They could not save the arm," Dunn said. "He's got a long way to go, lots of surgery. He'll need prosthesis."
Funck was in stable condition Thursday, Dunn said. Hospital spokeswoman Amiee Goforth said she could not discuss Funck's condition without permission from his family.
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An enormous alligator, dubbed "Big Joe" by residents, attacked Funck, biting off his arm at the shoulder and sparking a scramble to save the boy's life.
Funck and two friends from Slidell, La., about 20 miles northeast of New Orleans, had trudged half a mile to a small pond called Crystal Lake for a swim Wednesday afternoon. The towels, toys and other gear that still dotted the beach Thursday testified to the spot's popularity with area kids.
"It's an ideal pond to swim in, clean, beautiful," said Howard McCrea, 61, the St. Tammany Parish deputy and nuisance alligator hunter who caught the animal that attacked Funck. "But it's kind of a hike to get to it, and there is no supervision there."
People living in the area know about the alligators that swim in the three small lakes and waterways around their houses.
They especially knew about Big Joe, the 11-foot-long, 500 pound monster that swam in Crystal Lake. But they weren't especially worried — alligator attacks in Louisiana are rare and usually the injuries are not serious. Only 13 fatalities were recorded nationally since 2000, and none was in Louisiana.
"This was a very large gator, and as they get bigger they can become more aggressive," said Noel Kinler, manager of the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries' alligator program. "It's too bad someone didn't contact us to get it out of there."
McCrea said he found Big Joe within half an hour of the attack. But it took another 2 1/2 hours to kill and land the big reptile, cut it open and retrieve the arm.
"It was all together, but it was a blueish color," McCrea said of the torn limb. "It had been pulled from the shoulder."
Officials immediately placed the arm in an ice chest and rushed it to the New Orleans hospital where doctors waited to try to reattach it.
"The urgent problem with reattaching a limb is getting blood supply to the muscle as soon as possible," said Dr. Charles Dupin, head of plastic surgery at the LSU Health Science Center. "After four hours without blood you begin to get irreversible damage to the muscle. And if the muscle dies it can become infected."
Officials were not sure why the alligator attacked the boy, although in warm weather they feed more often, Kinler said. Feeding alligators can also decrease their fear of people and lead to attacks, Kinler said. St. Tammany Parish is the only parish in Louisiana where it is against the law to feed alligators, McCrea said.