Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)
Stranding Location: Pawley’s Island Creek, SC
Arrival Date: 5/28/2017
Weight: 45.6 kg (100.3 pounds)
Gary was rescued by kayakers on Pawley’s Island, SC. The rescuers had just finished a paddling trip on Pawley’s Island Creek and were driving down the highway, when they happened to spot a head pop out of the marsh mud. They thought their eyes were playing tricks on them until they saw Gary lift his head for a full breath. They realized there was a sea turtle stuck in the marsh! They quickly sprang to action and rescued him by carefully supporting his head, lifting him out of the oyster bed and on to the side of marsh. This was no easy task, as Gary weighs 100 pounds and was very stuck in the pluff mud! From there, the dedicated volunteer group South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiast (S.C.U.T.E) was called and Jeff McClary came to assess the scene. Jeff checked to make sure Gary was still responsive and called South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). Terry Graham, S.C.U.T.E member and DNR volunteer transporter, drove the turtle two hours to the South Carolina Aquarium on Sunday evening. Thank you to all the people involved in Gary’s rescue.
Gary was alert but lethargic when he arrived at the South Carolina Aquarium at 8:30 pm on Sunday night. Sea Turtle Care Center staff quickly triaged Gary, including a physical exam and blood pull. Physically, Gary showed all the signs of Debilitated Turtle Syndrome (DTS). He had a heavy epibiota load on the skin and shell, and he was emaciated, lethargic and dehydrated. Blood work results indicated that Gary was also anemic (meaning he had a low red blood cell count) and had a slightly low glucose (blood sugar) level. To help with the dehydration and low blood glucose levels, 5% dextrose was administered subcutaneously (under the skin) along with vitamins and additional fluids. Gary received cardiovascular support in the form of Hetastarch, which was administered intravenously. Hetastarch helps by pulling fluids into the vascular space so they can be circulated through the bloodstream and throughout the body more effectively. Gary’s heart rate was strong, but on the lower end of a “normal” heart rate for a loggerhead sea turtle. He also had a hook that was embedded in his plastron (bottom shell), which was removed. Gary was started on a course of injectable antibiotics to help prevent any opportunistic secondary infections that can come with DTS patients due to their lowered immune systems. After triage, Gary was placed in a water bed with fresh water in our Sea Turtle Hospital overnight.
May 2, 2017: Gary has been responding well to supportive care! Gary is now on a small diet, and we are slowly reintroducing food. He is still very weak, but is comfortable in shallow water. We are hopeful that Gary will continue to respond well to treatment.
June 15, 2017: Gary finally started to defecate at the end of last week! With DTS patients, defecation post-admit is a great indicator of health. If a patient does not defecate right away, an impaction (blockage) in the gastrointestinal tract could be present. Since Gary’s gastrointestinal tract is starting to function more normally, we are slowly increasing his diet. We are also slowly increasing the water level in his tank as he gets stronger.
July 3, 2017: Gary is finally over the hump and is improving weekly! Gary is extremely thin. He just finished his antibiotics, and he is on a diet that will help him gain weight in a slow, consistent manner. In order to be as hands-off as possible, staff is only removing him from his tank for physical exams twice monthly. With a nutritious diet on board, we are hopeful Gary will make a full recovery with time.