GOLDEN GATE ESTATES, Fla. -- Tim Delano expected his life to change in 2010, but not for the reasons it did.
Delano graduated from Palmetto Ridge High School in June with plans to find a job and pursue a career as a mechanic.
Then in July, his plans were changed dramatically when he was attacked by a 10-foot alligator while swimming in an Estates canal. He survived by punching and pulling himself away from the gator, but he lost his left hand in the process.
For a few days, Delano's story was a worldwide sensation.
It was an unwelcome 15 minutes of fame, said Delano's mother, Debbie.
The family received calls from news stations as far away as Los Angeles and London. A website in Australia also published the story.
Delano's recovery has been one of rebuilding physically and emotionally.
Five months later, the 19-year-old is trying to move on with his life, despite the new challenges.
Memories of the attack still haunt him.
Delano and some of his friends were at a popular swimming hole known as the Crystal at dusk, when the predator grabbed his left arm and pulled him underwater.
Delano recalls seeing the gator's head underwater. He also remembers realizing the beast was trying to kill him when it began spinning him around in the death roll.
Fortunately, Delano fought off the predator with his free hand.
After he escaped, he discovered what he had lost.
"I saw my bone. I had no hand. That was it," Delano told the Naples, Fla., Daily News in July.
Delano made the initial 911 call, while a high school friend, A.J. Raulerson, drove him toward a Golden Gate fire station for help.
He was taken by air ambulance to Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers, where he was rushed to surgery.
A trapper caught Delano's attacker. The gator was split open and the hand was removed, but doctors couldn't reattach it.
For a time, the teen struggled even to deal with the reality that he had permanently lost his left hand.
Delano was outfitted with a hook and a prosthetic hand, a gift from the Shriners International organization. However, the right-handed Delano said he mostly avoids using the prosthetic, even out in public.
He has tried the prosthetic to play the drums, one of his hobbies in high school, but hasn't gotten the hang of it yet.
At times, Delano said he gets angry when he thinks about what has happened to him in the past six months. That frustration has carried over to finances, too.
When Delano turned 19 after the attack, the Healthy Kids insurance program dropped him.
So far he's been denied disability pay through Social Security.
Delano reported that, essentially, he's been told he's not "disabled enough."
"What do they want, for me to lose another arm?" he asked sarcastically.
But in a lot of ways, Delano's life is also typical for a recent high school graduate looking for a job in this economy.
He said he has applied for numerous jobs, including with retail home improvement chains and one with Collier County government, but nobody has hired him.
Debbie Delano said she doubts her son's trouble finding a job has anything to do with the accident, because he's filled out most of his applications online and followed up with phone calls.
Tim Delano hasn't given up on his goal of becoming a mechanic yet, either, but said he may wait to go to school for it.
"I think it was a life-changing experience," said Delano's friend, Virginia Mount. "He will still figure out what he wants to do in life."
Despite the setbacks, Delano said he has learned how to be more appreciative of what he has, especially his friends.
"I've got to care for the people that are with me," he said, because he's learned "it could change in a second."
Mount said Delano has changed since the experience by becoming more cautious.
"I think he's more aware of things," she said. "He thinks about things before he does them."
Delano said he has revisited the site of his attack, but not to swim.
"I just sat there," he said.
(Contact Naples Daily News reporter Aaron Hale at http://www.naplesnews.com/staff/aaron-hale.)