25 Alive! A Special Turtle Patient

By the end of today, we will have had over 200 turtles come through our door.  This is an incredible number, but even with the multitude of intake exams, feedings, and treatments, there are always those patients that stand out.  Even though all the turtles are amazing and special, the more critical cases tend to leave an impact on me.  Those are the ones that you stay up at night worrying about, spending the extra hours doing special treatments on, and much, much more.  One such case is #25, a Kemp's ridley sea turtle who fought his way back to life.  

As you can tell by the low number, #25 was one of the earlier turtles of the season (we are now up to number 216).  During his intake exam, he was extremely lethargic and barely breathing on his own.  After emergency drugs, signs of life were more apparent, but by morning he had declined even more.  I remember finding our head veterinarian, Dr. Innis, already placing the turtle on a ventilator in the early hours of that Friday morning.  After several doses of emergency medications, fluid therapy based on blood work, ventilation, intense treatment, and stimulating kiddie pool swims, #25 made a comeback. 

 Due to some obvious signs of pneumonia that we saw from various diagnostics and clinical status, we immediately changed the course of treatment from our normal routine. Besides changing the antibiotics to target this infection, we also started nebulizer treatments.  This form of treatment vaporizes the medications (we use an antibiotic as well as an anti-fungal) so that they will have direct contact with the patient's lungs as he inhales.  The better contact time to the actual infected tissue was our hope in order to provide this turtle with a better prognosis.  The above photo shows the setup we use for nebulization.

Normally, we place the turtle on towels in the box during nebulization, but we did things a little different this time around.  #25 was extremely buoyant in the water (he was still getting shore supervised kiddie pool swims at that time), but he would breath much better.  We decided to add a little bit of water for him to swim in while inside the box (photo above).

As you can imagine, turtles can hold their breath for a fairly long time.  Since this setting stimulated his breathing, it then allowed for more medication to be inhaled and penetrate the infection.  In the above photo you can see the fumes of the medications that #25 was inhaling while in the box.  

It took some time, but we were eventually comfortable leaving #25 in the big pool overnight.  Over the course of a few weeks, his buoyancy resolved so that he could then dive to (and rest on) the bottom of the tank.  He also became much stronger and started to eat.  He started receiving some of his medications orally, allowing us to stop the nebulization.  

Currently, #25 has improved dramatically and we are extremely pleased he turned the corner from being on a ventilator to being one of our best eaters.  He still has pneumonia and long road ahead of him, but we are proud to say #25 is alive.

But don't worry... we have plenty more critical patients to tell you about! I took the next couple photos last night to share with you what the Animal Care Center in Quincy looks like right now.

The turtle hospital is full of patients, including more pneumonia cases, fractured femurs, severe carapace wounds, and eye injuries galore.  We even had to add emergency tanks to our setup to hold all these turtles. A special thanks to other departments in the aquarium for lending us equipment and helping to construct many of these.

And a whole tank just devoted to loggerheads!  This means more pneumonia, more eye injuries, even some missing flippers, but on a larger scale.  We are still getting these larger turtles and 7 more are coming through the door right now.  I hope to share some more special cases with you eventually, but the new patients await.  


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