Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)
Stranding Location: Charleston, SC Shipping Entrance Channel
Arrival Date: 5/22/17
Weight: 57 kg (125.6 pounds)
This loggerhead patient was found by the research vessel the Lady Lisa, a South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) trawl boat. Every year, SCDNR does an annual series of trawls to help assess the overall health of the sea turtle populations off the coast of South Carolina. Jerry was the first sea turtle pulled up this season and just so happened to have an old boat strike fracture to the carapace (top shell). Michelle Pate, SCDNR Sea Turtle Coordinator, along with Charlotte Hope and Michael Collins brought this patient to us for further treatment. Jerry was quickly transported from the Lady Lisa to the Charleston Maritime Center located near the aquarium via an SCDNR boat.
Jerry was very alert and a fairly active patient when he arrived to us for treatment. Our Sea Turtle Care Center (STCC) staff quickly triaged this patient by doing a physical exam to access the severity of the boat strike fractures. The fracture ran along the spine, and we were concerned there may be some potential paralysis, or limited use of the rear flippers. Senior Veterinarian Shane Boylan flushed the fractures with saline to help remove debris, such as sand and pluff mud. Jerry already had fibrin (scab like material) forming along the fractures and some dead bone, which indicated that the injury had occurred 2-4 weeks before he was found. Overall, Jerry was in good body condition and was started on antibiotics to help his immune system fight off any opportunistic infections from the injury. Jerry was placed in a full tank to assess the use of the rear flippers. Thankfully, he showed signs of mobility in all four limbs and can swim around well.
June 5, 2017: This weekend, Jerry moved into one of the larger tanks in the Sea Turtle Hospital. This tank has better filtration with the addition of ozone and a biological filtration tower. Superb water quality is a must, especially with fractures as severe as Jerry’s. This week we will be attempting to apply a wound vacuum to the fracture site in hopes of promoting healing. The tricky part will be trying to get a watertight seal with the bandage! Stay tuned for more information regarding this type of medical procedure.
June 15, 2017: Jerry’s fracture is healing with the help of a Wound V.A.C (vacuum assisted closure). Wound V.A.Cs are used to treat a variety of wounds, but are particularly helpful with turtle carapace (top shell) fractures. Wound V.A.Cs apply negative pressure to the affected area and aid in the removal of exudates such as pus and debris. This helps increase blood flow to the area which promotes healing. Dr. Boylan removed some dead bone and tissue from the fracture site before applying the wound V.A.C this week. Moving forward, we are going to let Jerry do most of the healing on his own with the help of antibiotics and a nutritious diet!
July 1, 2017: Jerry continues to do well, and is off of all antibiotics. Now it’s just a matter of a healthy diet, clean water and time. On Tuesday, June 27, Jerry was moved into one of the larger tanks in Recovery. This makes for a total of five patients that can be seen by aquarium guests. Make sure to check him out on your next visit!
July 15, 2017: Jerry appears to be doing great in Recovery. Since he sustained a severe boat strike wound, the STCC team is closely monitoring his buoyancy control and ability to dive and find food in the larger tank. Jerry is doing great and seems to be mending well. This season we have admitted 12 patients that have been hit by boats. Depending on the extent of the injuries, treatment plans will vary. Luckily, we now have TR7, the large deep tank in Recovery. This 5.5 foot deep tank will really come in handy when it comes to assessing patients with boat strike wounds.