Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Myrtle gets an MRI at Medical University of South Carolina

Myrtle is a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle that suffered a severe trauma to the head that destroyed a significant portion of the skull’s left side. Surgery reduced the fractures, and the turtle has made a remarkably fast recovery. All dead bone has been sloughed and the left eye’s function has tremendously improved. Unfortunately, Myrtle has become a “floater.” Turtles may become floaters for numerous reasons that include gas trapped within the body cavity (coelom) or intestines. Multiple attempts to remove trapped coelomic gas by needle aspiration were unproductive. Radiographs (the picture taken by X-rays) suggested that the buoyancy was either due to hyper inflated lungs or compartmentalized, trapped coelomic gas. Radiographs are best used to evaluate bone issues, and Myrtle appeared to have a problem with his/her organs.
An endoscopic surgery was the next logical step to narrow down the cause until Dr. Ed Jauch and the MUSC MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) team offered their assistance. MRI is a non-invasive (no surgical cutting) technique that allows the visualization of Myrtle’s internal soft tissues. On March 13th, Myrtle visited Drs. Ed Jauch, Paul Morgan, and the MUSC MRI staff. Myrtle quietly sat through nearly 40 minutes of scanning.

Results show that the lungs are the source of the buoyancy and that no surgical exploration for trapped coelomic gas is necessary. The MUSC doctors saved Myrtle from an unproductive surgery. Myrtle, or as I call him Tony Montana due to the scar on his face, is likely buoyant due to some neurological trauma suffered from the head injury that has resulted in hyperinflation of the lungs. Only time and weight belt therapy will tell if Myrtle will relearn to dive. He does dive normally on occasion when motivated by food, but overall, he enjoys staying at the surface. His condition could be compared to a human who suffered a brain injury (i.e., stroke) where the patient may have to relearn certain tasks.
Myrtle is not alone among sea turtles to suffer traumatic injury that results in permanent floatation and much remains unknown about how a boat strike could cause aberrant physiological behavior. The South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program is very grateful to MUSC for helping us find the root of the issue and thereby avoiding unnecessary surgery.

Shane Boylan

Monday, May 18, 2009

Many turn out for DeBordieu's release

It had to be one of our biggest releases yet – the release DeBordieu, a celebrity sea turtle in many ways.

DeBordieu, an adult female loggerhead possibly as old as 50-60 years, was released on the Isle of Palms on Saturday, May 2, 2009 in partnership with the SCDNR. Many turtle hospital tour visitors had met her during the 22 months of her rehabilitation in the Aquarium’s Turtle Hospital. She was quite a sight to behold during this time and even more so on the beach.
I have to say that DeBordieu was without doubt, the most difficult turtle I’ve ever treated. They all have different dispositions and as you may have read in her medical updates, she was stubborn during medical evaluations and therapy and at feeding time was not only picky but extremely messy, pulverizing most of the food she was given. Anytime we would work near her tank, she seemed to splash copious amounts of water out of the tank right where we were working. Coincidence? Perhaps. But that tough girl attitude may be just what it takes to survive in an ocean full of threats to her species. This old gal has survived this long and I believe she has a good long life in front of her in which to help to increase the threatened loggerhead population. We wish her the best.

Thanks to all who were involved in her rescue, her rehabilitation and to all who came to see her off on Saturday. Choreographing this particular release proved to be more challenging than expected. A lot of people have been involved during DeBordieu’s tenure with us and we tried to accommodate all during the release. We hope all who showed up at least got one good look at this majestic sea turtle before her return to the ocean. Be assured that we evaluate each and every release and constantly strive to improve the experience for all involved.

As always, thank you for your support of this program…we couldn’t do it without you!

Kelly Thorvalson