Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)
Stranding Location: Price Inlet, near Caper’s Island, SC
Arrival Date: 7/23/2017
Weight: 4.8 kg (10.5 pounds)
Fluke was caught by a fisherman in Price Inlet near Caper’s Island. Luckily, Sullivan’s Island Firefighter Stephen Poole happened to be out boating and knew this little turtle needed help. He quickly called South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) and arrangements were made to meet volunteer transporters Mary Pringle, Barb Gobien and Barb Bergwerf at the Isle of Palms Marina. From there, the turtle was transported to the aquarium where Dr. Boylan and Sea Turtle Care Center staff were ready to triage the turtle.
Fluke arrived as a very active patient! Luckily for us, Fluke’s line was left long so we had a lot of lead to follow. We immediately did radiographs (x-rays) to better access the location of the hook and to determine if there was more than one present. Unfortunately, the radiographs showed the hook was swallowed and was located deep in the stomach which would require surgery to remove. Radiographs also revealed some fluid in the lungs indicating that Fluke may have aspirated some sea water while being pulled in on the line. Fluke’s blood work checked out normal and he was placed on fluids as our Sea Turtle Care Center (STCC) team prepped for surgery. Fluke was sedated and fully anesthetized for this procedure. Due to the size of the hook, a large incision was made along the throat and into Fluke’s esophagus. From there, Dr. Shane Boylan used an endoscope (an instrument with a small camera on the end) to visualize the location of the hook and began to start the tedious process of removing it from the stomach. The hook was successfully removed, but left a long incision to suture up. Fluke recovered from the surgery fairly quickly – some patients can take several hours to fully recover from the effects of anesthesia. Fluke was placed in a waterbed to rest and recover overnight.
July 27, 2017: Fluke has been hanging in there and is still resting from the surgery. He is not strong enough to be placed in a tank yet and is being closely monitored by STCC staff. Fluke will not be offered food for several weeks in order to give the esophagus time to heal. We will continue to give Fluke supportive care including antibiotics, pain management drugs and fluid therapy as he heals from this surgery.
July 31, 2017: Fluke has rounded a corner and is now swimming around with gusto in his tank. We will still need to closely monitor the pneumonia but we are pleased with his activity level.
August 15, 2017: A few days ago, Fluke had an exam with the vet staff to see how his incision was holding up, and to see if he could be cleared for food. During the exam, he was given a contrast to see if there was any leakage from the wound. Three X-rays were taken: one before the contrast was given, the second was 10 minutes later and the third was 20 minutes later. These three X-rays showed the contrast and how/where it moved during that time. Comparing these three images showed the vet staff that the contrast was moving naturally through Fluke with no problems. He was cleared to eat and has been loving his food! He stays very active in his tank, and he is on the road to recovery!
September 15, 2017: Fluke’s incision site was opened and some fibrin was cleaned out that had formed beneath the skin. The wound looks good, and he is healing nicely. He’s eating well and loves staying active in his tank!
October 1, 2017: Fluke is continuing to heal and gain weight. His wound looks great, and he’s remaining very active throughout the day. Fluke just needs time to completely heal before he’s ready to head back home.
October 15, 2017: Fluke has moved up to the Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery and is loving his new, temporary home! He’s continuing to heal and eats well. He loves eating mackerel and fishpops! Fishpops are a form of enrichment that we commonly do to challenge and change things up for our patients. Fluke is staying very active and splashy in his new tank and has definitely become a guest and staff favorite! Hopefully, Fluke will be release-ready in the near future!