Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)
Stranding Location: North Myrtle Beach, SC
Arrival Date: 11/1/2017
Weight: 56.26 kg (123 pounds)
Kathy was found by sanitation workers in the Horry County Unincorporated section of North Myrtle Beach near the waterline. Kathy was covered in barnacles and marine leeches. She was unresponsive and clearly in need of medical attention. After South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) was contacted, SCDNR volunteer Linda Mataya quickly responded to the call. Once she had eyes on Kathy, she instantly knew she had Debilitated Turtle Syndrome (DTS). Linda made the 5 hour round trip to get Kathy to the Sea Turtle Care Center (STCC) for immediate care.
At a first glance, STCC staff saw that she had a significant amount of leeches present on her eyelids and nares, as well as on the soft tissue areas of her neck, flippers and on the inside of her mouth. Kathy was also covered in barnacles, pluff mud and sand. A heart rate and body temperature was taken and then blood was drawn to run diagnostics. A thorough physical was done resulting in the discovery of a healed boat-strike wound on the right side of her carapace (top shell) that was underneath the sand and mud. Her blood work results indicated that she was both dehydrated and slightly anemic, but were not as poor as other DTS patients that have been previously admitted. Kathy received vitamins diluted in a bolus of fluids that were given under the skin (subcutaneously) and was started on injectable antibiotics. Associate veterinarian, Dr. Julie Cavin administered Hetastarch intravenously. Hetastarch works quickly by pulling in fluids and vitamins into the vascular space so they can be circulated through the bloodstream and throughout the body more effectively. After triage, Kathy was placed in a freshwater dip for a few hours to help kill and remove the marine leeches. The salinity of Kathy’s waterbed was slightly increased and she spent the night in shallow water and on foam.
November 5, 2017: Kathy has been doing well so far. She received more Hetastarch and fluids and was then placed in a tank with shallow brackish water. The majority of the leeches on her eyelids and nares have fallen off or have been carefully removed. Kathy was offered a few pieces of salmon and mackerel and is eating well! Over the next week we will continue to slowly increase her diet, water depth and salinity, and hopefully Kathy will continue on this upward trend.
November 15, 2017: Kathy is slowly but surely making progress. Kathy is a severe DTS patient, and we are slowly reintroducing food and increasing her diet- the good news is that she has quite the appetite and eats everything we offer her. Kathy’s rear flippers seem to have been affected by the old boat-strike injury, and appear to have minimal movement in them. Kathy received a CT scan on our new CT machine to better access the injury to her spine and carapace (top shell). Kathy is hanging in there, but she has a long way to go on the road to recovery.
December 1, 2017: Kathy underwent a CT scan to assess her old boat-strike wound. There is no severe damage to her spine. We have also seen her move her rear flippers more often in her tank, and she’s reacting to staff evaluating them. We are unable to leave Kathy in deep water because she is still very weak and does not use her rear flippers to their full extent. Kathy also defecated two pieces of plastic. We have been monitoring her fecal matter for more foreign material but so far have not found anything odd. Because Kathy is still very thin and weak, we continue to monitor her closely every day.