Thursday, February 19, 2009

Patients make astonishing improvements but long way to go before release

Myrtle, a 6-pound Kemp’s ridley, and North Myrtle, a 70-pound loggerhead, were admitted in the fall of 08, both suffering from deadly injuries. It is no longer a question of survival for these two, but whether they can heal enough to be released in to the wild.

The cards were stacked against North Myrtle when
he/she arrived. Seven shell fractures, several of which cross the spine, caused the turtle to be quite fragile to handle and have reduced use of the rear flippers. Top the major trauma with pneumonia, and you will find North Myrtle is one lucky turtle to be alive! 5 months after admission, staff continue to handle the fragile turtle with great care during examinations, physical therapy and injections. The wounds on this loggerhead are healing quite well as seen in the photograph. Much of the exposed bone has died and sloughed off, being replaced by healthy granulation tissue and keratin (the
dark coating over the bone). Over time -a very, very long time- new keratin will harden in areas where bone will never grow back, providing stability in the turtle’s shell once again. This one may be with us for a while!

Myrtle, the tenacious little Kemp’s ridley with the massive scar on his head (Dr. Boylan calls this one Tony Montana) could be the spunkiest turtle in all the hospital. The attached photo shows the healed fracture where once again, exposed bone died and sloughed, leaving healthy keratinized tissue behind. Secondary to the head trauma is the floating problem that we have noted since arrival. As the head trauma healed, hospital staff started planning treatments to correct the buoyancy problem, which has increased over time. Several non-invasive treatments have been tried in efforts to resolve the floating, to no avail.

This video was taken underwater of Myrtle trying to dive for food on the bottom of the tank.

Weight belts are being tested to help Myrtle rest comfortably on the bottom yet still be able to surface with ease. I'll soon be posting a video showing how Myrtle does with the weight belt, so be sure to check back. And of course, you can always visit in person by taking a hospital tour! Details of tours are on the website.

Kelly Thorvalson