Wednesday, August 22, 2001


An alligator attacked Edna Wilks, 11, over the weekend in Orlando, Florida, latching onto her arm and pulling her under water. Amanda Valance, also 11, who along with two other friends had been swimming at a lake with Edna, pulled her to shore as the gator followed.
Edna was treated for a broken arm, had surgery to clean debris from her arm muscle and received blood transfusions. CNN's Colleen McEdwards spoke to Edna and Amanda and Edna's doctor, John Ciccarelli of Orlando Regional Medical Center.

COLLEEN McEDWARDS: Edna, I see that you are out of your hospital bed this morning. ... How are you feeling?

EDNA WILKS: I am feeling a little bit tired. I am a little drowsy right now. And I’ve gotta wear this thing. In about an hour, I'm getting ready to go into surgery again. And I was attacked by a friggin’ monster yesterday!

McEDWARDS: Yes. What are you having done?

WILKS: They are just going to open me up again. To reclean my arm and just look for infections, and shrapnel and hopefully they won't find any.

McEDWARDS: Shrap . . .? What do you remember about the attack?

WILKS: I remember everything. It was amazing. I mean, he first
-- when he first grabbed onto my arm, I thought it was my strong, scaly friend, Mark, and I actually said, Mark, stop playing.
And then I had
looked over, and then I kind of rolled my eyes, and I looked over, and I realized it wasn't him at all. And he immediately pulled me under -- the alligator, not Mark, pulled me under and started giving it the old classic “alligator death spin”. And I was like just twirling, twirling, and I heard my -- something crack – you know, something. And I thought to myself, This is going to be it. But - and he bit onto my arm, where I have this huge gash, and I thought I was going to drown. And I thought, This isn’t how I imagined it at all. I’m 11 right? So I have this like very, young girl like, imagination.
So, I’m thinking, Wow, I thought I might die on my Scooter this summer. Mom always says I’m gonna. Or like, sometimes I daydream about fighting with my friend, Amanda, about who Brad Pitt loves more, me or her, and she like kills me, because she’s fitter, and probably right about Brad Pitt. But, The Death by Alligator Death Spin; I never would have thought. And then he stopped spinning, the Alligator, not Mark, because I like when Mark spins me, just like that, and I went back up for air. Is my mom gonna see this?

McEDWARDS: And then, what did you do then?

WILKS: Well, when I went up back for air, I was just
-- all I
could think of was just to try to get him off of my arm. So I used my fingers to try to pry open his mouth, and I friggin’
nearly cut my damned finger off, put a big gash in it, and got some scratches on my thumb and on my palm of my hand. And I lost my “friendship” bracelet Amanda gave me. Don’t leave out the quotes.

McEDWARDS: So he is still on your arm, when you get to the surface, and you used your right hand to get yourself free?

WILKS: Uh-huh.

McEDWARDS: Now, Amanda, you're watching all of this happening.
What did you do?

AMANDA VALANCE “The Friend”: I just immediately went over and pulled her away from the gator once he let go of her. ... I went over and just tried my best to get her away from it once it was turning around and coming back.

McEDWARDS: It was turning around and coming back?

VALANCE: Yes. And then, she got on the boogie board, and I Looked behind us, and it was just gone. It just disappeared under the water, and I have no idea where it went.

McEDWARDS: So what did you do then, Amanda? You've got the alligator going in the right direction. You've got Edna up on your boogie board. Are you pulling her to shore at this point?

VALANCE: Yes. Every once in a while, I would get behind her and I would push her. Then I thought it might be better to be in front of her, on the shore side. And I'd get in front of her and look behind to see if anything was behind us. You know, I had a better view from the front. And then, I just gave her encouragement.

McEDWARDS: And, Edna, what are you thinking at this point?

WILKS: I just thought -- I looked at my arm, and I tried to lift it up, and all I could see was my arm from my shoulder to my elbow. And I thought he had -- when I heard that crack, I thought he had bit my other half of my arm off. And I was screaming, "My arm is gone, my arm is gone, you bitch!" And then I was swimming, and I noticed I was wiggling my fingers.
And then, I knew right then and there that my arm was still attached, so I just tried to use my good arm and supported my other arm and just tried to lean on the boogie board and swim in. No thanks to Amanda who was blocking my way, splashing hysterically.

McEDWARDS: Now, Dr. Ciccarelli, what kind of condition is that Arm in?

JOHN CICCARELLI: Fair to midlan. No seriously, it's in pretty good condition right now. The Snap she heard was actually the alligator breaking the lower part of her upper arm bone when he was probably doing the Death Spin thing. And she has several cuts to her forearm from where he had grabbed onto her arm, the biggest only being about 7 inches long and about an inch deep. And it was nearly down to the bone, and he just missed one of her major nerves that helps control her hand. That’s it really, that’s the extent of it.
You know, she’s 11, and if you’ve ever been an 11 year old girl you KNOW what that’s like. You know, self-aggrandizement, exaggeration, the rest.

McEDWARDS: So is her prognosis pretty good?

CICCARELLI: It is. Like I said, our biggest concern right now is the risk for infection, because of the bacterial contamination that was likely in the lake, as well as the alligator's mouth.
Filthy, filthy mouths alligator’s have. Our biggest concern is keeping that under control, which is why we're taking her back to surgery today to go under the knife and get in there and clean out everything again.

MCEDWARDS: Do you think other surgeries will be necessary? Or will you -- you'll know more after today, I imagine.

CICCARELLI: Yes, we will. Once we cut her open and get a look in there and see how the wound is doing, that's what our biggest concern is at the time. We don't foresee any further surgery, but that's always a possibility.

McEDWARDS: Now, Amanda, as you were watching all of thishappen, you can see it's an alligator. I know a lot of the otherkids you were with sort of wimped out and left the area, as one might understand. Everybody is panicking. Everybody is afraid. But what went through your mind? I mean, did you ever think, you know, I can't get involved in this, there is nothing I can do?

VALANCE: No. I knew I was just -- I had to be there for her,Because I couldn't see her die. And I don't know. I put it in God'shands and everything, and I just...

McEDWARDS: Well, that is courage, my dear. It really is. Edna,what do you think about your best friend now?

WILKS: Oh, it's like we’re supposed to have this “bond” now. Like “She saved my life, and now she’s my hero” kind of thing, and I’m supposed to be forever grateful for that? Look. She’s the pretty one between us and now because I would have died if she didn't come to my rescue, it’s like everybody’s all . . . Do you think I need this? I’ve gone from just being the fat girl to being Alligator tapas that Amanda coolly snatched from the jaws of death! She always has to be the Goddamned hero! If she hadn’t got involved I would have just drowned on my own, or he would have just came -- definitely came back for me and just got me and taken me away, far away.

McEDWARDS: Thank you all for your time this morning.