Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)
Stranding Location: Myrtle Beach State Park, SC
Arrival Date: 5/11/2019
Weight: 2.7 kg (6 pounds)
Timon was found stranded by Myrtle Beach State Park rangers who were out doing sea turtle nest inventories. Park rangers observed how weak and thin Timon was and contacted South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Luckily, this little green was quickly transported to the South Carolina Aquarium by Linda Mataya of the North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle Patrol team.
Upon admit, Timon was incredibly thin, weak, and in very critical condition. Timon had chronic Debilitated Turtle Syndrome (DTS). Bloodwork indicated that he was severely dehydrated and had a low glucose level, among other issues; he had been sick for a long time. Timon was given lots of fluids to begin rehydrating him, emergency drugs to help increase his heart rate, and was started on antibiotics to help prevent any further infection present in his body. The tissue on his front flippers was covered in fibrin, and was sloughing off; we usually see this in very debilitated turtles. Timon’s prognosis was very guarded given his bloodwork results and overall body condition. After he was triaged, he was left to rest comfortably on a foam waterbed and staff checked on him throughout the night.
May 12, 2019: Timon pulled through the night, but was still very weak.
His glucose (blood sugar level) was rechecked and had stabilized; more fluids were administered to continue to rehydrate him. Timon was offered food, but showed no interest. Because he was in such a debilitated state and had no energy to move except to take breaths. Knowing that turtles are more comfortable when in water, staff built him a kiddie pool that was able to float and have filtered water move through it so he could be in a filtered tank and more comfortable while resting. Timon still has not shown interest in food and will continue to receive fluid therapy, and we will keep his tank water at a lower salinity to help rehydrate him as well. His prognosis is highly guarded as he is a very critical patient.
May 30, 2019: Timon has made great strides since our last update! He was so dehydrated that he was receiving fluids daily. He was also put on another antibiotic, and cold laser therapy was started to help the skin on his flippers heal. He has an area on top of his head with exposed bone that is also receiving laser treatment. Timon finally started eating, defecating and has really perked up over the last week. We were able to remove the kiddie pool because he was strong enough to swim in shallow water. Hopefully this positive trend continues with this little guy!
June 15, 2019: Over the past two weeks, Timon has grown stronger. He’s no longer in a kiddie pool and is swimming at almost at half a tank! When Timon came in, he had some open wounds along his front flippers which we treated each time he was pulled for an injection. Greens and kemps are prone to osteomyelitis (bone infection) in the joints of their flippers, especially if there is already a wound present and they’re immune-comprised. About two weeks ago we noticed that his elbow joint on his right front flipper was getting swollen, and when we took an x-ray we saw that the bone was starting to break down from the infection. There was a small area on the elbow that had fibrin over it but it came off, exposing his joint. Timon was sedated and Dr. Shane surgically debrided it, removing infection materials from it to help it heal. He packed it with lots of products to help aid in healing and now has a tegaderm bandage over it. Timon is on additional antibiotics to help get rid of this infection. Thankfully, he’s a tough turtle though — as soon as we put him back in his tank, he started eating right away and swimming. Timon continues to be one of our more critical patients but is hanging in there!
July 1, 2019: We are continuing to treat the osteomyelitis in Timon’s right front flipper. Timon finished his second antibiotic and is still being pulled to treat the exposed area on his flipper every few days. Timon had to be sedated for another surgical debridement of that area to help get the infectious tissue out. An osteomyelitis infection this severe can be tricky to get rid of, and often takes a long time to heal. Timon is taking this like a champ though, and continues to eat well and is active in his tank.
July 16, 2019: Timon continues to improve. After his surgical debridement of the osteomyelitis in his front flipper we have been monitoring the wound’s condition carefully. Since the joint was open to the environment we were keeping it covered and keeping his water as clean as possible to prevent any further or worse infection. We were able to get Kerecis fish skin to graft onto the wound to promote naturally occurring skin regeneration. Timon is a trooper and still eating great and using his flipper easily. He is a champ!
August 1, 2019: Over the past few weeks, Timon has continued to improve. We believe his flipper is now strong enough to sustain swimming activity in deeper water so we are slowly increasing the depth in his tank. He continues to eat really well, and his behavior indicates that he is not uncomfortable in any way. We are monitoring his defecations carefully though, as it does not seem he is digesting his veggies properly. Turtles take a long time to recover, and Timon was very sick when he arrived, so it may take months for his digestive system to catch up. We are supplementing Timon’s diet with plenty of vitamins and protein to help him gain weight and get the nutrients he needs to recover and healed.
August 15, 2019: Timon hit a major milestone in the last week: he is finally in a full water tank! When Timon was first moved into a tank, he spent the majority of his first month with us in a floating kiddie pool because he was too weak to swim for long periods of time. We are so proud of the progress he’s made in the last month!
September 1, 2019: In preparation for Hurricane Dorian, we moved Timon to a tank in Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery. He is doing great in his new tank, which is slightly larger than one in the ICU. Timon’s right front flipper is still a little swollen, but overall looks incredible. X-rays show the presence of the infection is gone and the bone is starting to heal. Way to go, Timon!
October 1, 2019: Last week, Timon was pulled from his tank for a scheduled weight and measurement check to examine his body condition, a routine we do with all our patients. Timon is continuously gaining weight, and his wounds are healing nicely! On his front flipper, where the infection got into his elbow joint, the wound is totally healed. We are so happy with Timon’s progress and expect continuous improvement!