Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidocheyls kempii)
Stranding Location: Kiawah Island, SC
Arrival Date: June 1, 2022
Weight: 3kg (6.6 lbs)
Gemini was caught on hook and line off of a community dock on Kiawah Island. Luckily for Gemini, the fisher was able to bring them up to the dock using a dip net, which helped to prevent more trauma to Gemini’s esophagus. The fisher called the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) who dispatched SCDNR volunteer transporters Cindy Lockhart and Lynne Sager to bring this little Kemp’s to the Sea Turtle Care Center for hook removal.
Gemini was very active at admit! Thankfully, the line was left long before it was cut, and the fisher gave the transporters a hook that was the same size as the one Gemini had swallowed to help us with size reference during the removal. Care Center and vet staff pulled blood, got weight, heart rate, body temperature and did an x-ray to see the location of the hook. The x-ray revealed an unexpected surprise: There was not one, but two large J hooks in the distal esophagus! Given the location of the hooks and their large size, we anticipated having to do surgery to remove them, but we wanted to attempt to remove the hooks non-surgically first. After in-house bloodwork was processed and all of Gemini’s values were stable enough to proceed with sedation, we set up for the hook removal and administered sedation to begin the removal process. Given that is was already late in the evening when this patient arrived, we knew it was going to be a late night for all. After about an hour, Dr. Jamie was able to successfully remove both hooks without surgery and with the patient under sedation. Gemini’s respiration and heartrate were monitored closely throughout the procedure. As soon as the hooks were removed, a reversal to the sedative was administered along with fluids, vitamins, a dose of antibiotics and pain management drugs. Gemini came out of sedation fairly quickly, and staff continued to monitor them closely for the next few hours. All in all, it was a long but successful night.
June 2, 2022: The following morning, Gemini was given another round of fluids and more pain management drugs. While we did not have to make an incision to remove the hooks, there was still a fair amount of trauma to the tissue in the esophagus and mouth during the hook removal process so we wanted to keep Gemini comfortable. A little later in the day, we swim tested Gemini in a tank down in our ICU and they passed with flying colors! Gemini will continue to receive pain management drugs and fluids over the next week to help keep them comfortable during the healing process. We will offer them food after about a week of fasting to allow time for their esophagus to heal.
June 15, 2022: Gemini has improved since admit! They received pain management drugs for the first few days after the hooks were removed, along with fluid therapy while we fasted them to let their esophagus heal. When we offered them food for the first time, they ate right away! Since then, we have continued to increase their diet, and they are still receiving antibiotics. Overall, they are recovering well!
July 15, 2022: Gemini has finished their course of antibiotics and is doing well overall. We recently switched out their enrichment to a cube shape, and they have been zipping in and out of it! We are just giving Gemini more time to gain weight and be off the meds before evaluating them for potential release.
August 15, 2022: Gemini has been doing well since our last update! Gemini was evaluated for pre-release but unfortunately their bloodwork did not meet the requirements needed to be medically cleared for release. We will give them more time for their bloodwork values to improve and will re-evaluate them for release again in the future.
September 15, 2022: Gemini has been cruising since our last update! We moved Gemini up to a new tank in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery™ on the first floor. We will be pulling them to reevaluate their bloodwork to see if it has improved. Other than that, Gemini is doing well!