Director of Florida Wildlife Park Loses Hand After Being Attacked by an Alligator
The director of Florida Gator Gardens was bitten in the arm by an alligator and lost his left hand as a result
For the second time in nine years, Greg Graziani has come close to losing an arm to an alligator. The director of Florida Gator Gardens, Graziani was severely wounded after an alligator attacked him and bit his left arm earlier this month.
Florida Gator Gardens announced in a Facebook post that on Aug. 17, Graziani was working with some large, captive alligators at the wildlife park, which is located in Venus. The post does not specify what Graziani was doing at the time, noting only that he was “seriously injured during a routine interaction with our large alligators.”
The wildlife park went on to explain that Graziani’s left arm was partially severed during the attack, and that he was immediately flown to Tampa General Hospital for treatment. At that time, his left hand was only connected by a single tendon. A full amputation seemed like the most likely outcome, but the surgeons got to work right away. They tried to reattach the arm by creating new vessels for blood flow and using metal plates to hold the bone fragments together.
“What was originally scheduled as an amputation has instead been a tremendous testament to the marvels of modern medicine and the dedication of Tampa’s staff at all levels, our own staff’s calm, deliberate actions during a crisis, and Greg’s pure grit and maneuvering during an impossibly difficult situation,” the wildlife park explained on August 22.
The surgery seemed successful at first, and doctors believed that Graziani had a chance of keeping his left hand. However, the wildlife park posted an update on Graziani’s condition four days later, explaining that his hand did not recover from the crushing injury he received from the alligator.
Graziani went into surgery again on Aug. 25, the park explained, and this time surgeons amputated his left arm well below the elbow. They were also able to reroute nerves from the amputated limb, which will help if Graziani decides to get a prosthetic hand in the future.
“It was clear that the hand was simply not able to recover,” the wildlife park wrote on Aug. 26. “Crushing injuries and avulsions are the hardest injuries to reattach, and we had all of it.”
Graziani has worked with reptiles since he was 7 years old, according to the wildlife park, and this wasn’t the first time he was injured badly while working with gators. In 2013, he almost lost his right arm when removing a 7.5-foot nuisance alligator that was trapped on private property. The gator was tied and stored in a horse trailer, and when it started rolling, Graziani’s arm got caught in the rope. His arm broke in several places, and luckily his 12-year-old son was there to cut the rope.
It took more than a year for Graziani’s right arm to mend, but according to Florida Gator Gardens, “he only came back more determined to share his passion for reptiles with the world.” After the more recent gator attack that led to the loss of his left hand, Graziani remains optimistic about the future and looks forward to getting back to doing what he loves.
“So today we start a new day,” reads the most recent Facebook post. “As great as it would have been to preserve the hand, we are thrilled to finally have a date to go home next week and move forward.”