Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Critically Ill Loggerhead, Atalaya, Hangs on to Life

The third sea turtle admitted into the Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital in July is Atalaya, a sub-adult loggerhead that stranded at Huntington Beach State Park. This poor turtle is extremely debilitated, suffering from severe emaciation, dehydration, and critically low blood levels including no blood glucose and a 5% hematocrit (% red blood cells...normal is 30-40%). We are tremendously grateful for the generous donation from Loggerhead Apparel of the funds to buy a new i-STAT blood machine. Getting a thorough blood analysis when the turtles first arrive is critical to successful treatment!

Triage took place in the  Aquarium's Animal Medical Facility and included fluid therapy (IV 50%dextrose and hetastarch, SQ 5% dextrose and sodium chloride), antibiotic injections (ceftazadime and danofloxacin), and vitamin injections (B-Complex, C and K). The turtle was then dry docked in the Sea Turtle Hospital with an overnight drip of Normosol fluids. Dry docking an animal in this condition is important because they could drown in water that covers their nares (nostrils).

Jeff McClary, head of SCUTE, helped to get the turtle from Huntington to Georgetown and SCDNR transported the rest of the way to find Sea Turtle Rescue staff awaiting their arrival.
The emaciated loggerhead hardly moved during the admission process. The heavy barnacle load is an indication that the turtle has been lethargic in the ocean. 
Marine leeches were removed from the corners of the mouth. Notice how sunken the eyes are...a sign of dehydration and lack of muscles and fat behind the eyes.

Dr. Boylan gives fluids IV in the dorsal sinus.
After 2.5 hours of treatment, the turtle was moved into the ICU tank in the Sea Turtle Hospital.
After 2 nights of dry dock, Atalaya is now swimming in shallow water. She isn't eating yet and we plan to tube feed a gruel with fish and vitamins to get some nutrition on board.   
Huge thanks to all involved in Atalaya's rescue! To David LaManna from NY who found the turtle and made the calls to get her rescued; Chris Bowers, beach ranger from Huntington for responding to the stranding; Jeff McClary, fearless leader of SCUTE for transporting Atalaya from Huntington to the Sewee Outpost in Awendaw and who is always willing to drive sick and injured sea turtles to get help; Bill Brabson for volunteering to ride with Jeff for assistance; and Amy Gutierrez from SCDNR for transporting the remainder of the trip. With patients in critical condition, it takes a great deal of support to get them here as soon as possible for treatment. Also, a huge thanks to our dedicated staff and volunteers that come in on a moment's notice on evenings, weekends and holidays to help save these turtles. Atalaya's prognosis is still guarded but we are thrilled that she is still with us today!

Kelly Thorvalson
Sea Turtle Rescue Program Manager