Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)
Stranding Location: Calibogue Sound near Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Arrival Date: 8/9/2021
Weight: 8.50 kg (19 lbs)
Bloodstone was hit by a boat in Calibogue Sound in between Daufuskie Island and Hilton Head Island. There is a bright side to this unlucky circumstance, as the boater who accidentally hit Bloodstone promptly contacted the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). The boater was instructed to transport the turtle to a nearby dock and Amber Kuehn, SCDNR permit holder and Hilton Head Island Turtle Patrol member, picked up the injured Kemp’s and headed in the direction of Charleston. SCDNR technician Meredith Bean met Amber halfway between Hilton Head and Charleston and transported this patient to the Sea Turtle Care Center™ for emergency triage.
Bloodstone is a very lucky, unlucky turtle! Bloodstone’s injuries were fresh. While they were actively bleeding, the blood loss appeared to be minimal based on bloodwork. Using x-ray and a CT scan, our vet team was able to better access the trauma caused by the boat strike. The boat strike impacted many different areas of this patient’s body. One of the propeller’s cut through the fourth and fifth marginal scutes on the left side of the body near the left front flipper. The left front flipper was very swollen and both the radius and ulna bones in that flipper are fractured. There was also a large, deep laceration in the soft tissue along the jaw, and the jaw bone itself is also fractured on the left side. The final fracture cut through the plastron (bottom shell) but fortunately, the gastrointestinal system was not involved. Another fortunate outcome is that there did not appear to be any trauma to the head based on CT, which is something we typically see with boat-strike injuries similar to this one. CT also revealed that there were contusions, or bruising, to the lungs as well. Though this Kemp’s was in very rough shape, all things considered, the impact of the propeller wounds could have been much worse. Bloodstone was put on pain management drugs, started on antibiotics and received fluids and vitamins. Admitting staff packed the wound on the marginal scutes with MediHoney gauze and put a pressure bandages over that area to help prevent further bleeding. Bloodstone was left to rest comfortably in a foam padded bin overnight.
August 10, 2021: The following morning Bloodstone received more pain management drugs and a bandage change along with more fluids. Bloodstone then spent the next few days on pain meds and was left to rest comfortably in a bin in the exam room where he could be monitored closely by staff.
September 15, 2021: Bloodstone has really improved since our last update. Over the past month, Bloodstone received antibiotic injections and cold laser therapy to the areas injured by the boat strike. Cold laser therapy helps to reduce inflammation and promote healing at the cellular level. The biggest hurdle has been getting Bloodstone to eat. We knew it would take him awhile due to the trauma to his jaw, but we were able to get him to start eating by offering pieces of blue crab. From there, he has started to eat fish, but he’s a picky eater and really only prefers mackerel or salmon (eye-roll). He is more active in his tank and appears to be feeling better!
November 15, 2021: Bloodstone has been eating well and is very active! We will be pulling Bloodstone for the first time in 2 months this week. We decided it was best not to handle this patient after they were done with their antibiotic injections to allow time for the fractured left, front flipper to heal. We did not want to accidentally re-injure the front flipper when handling them. We will be doing a weight check and diagnostic imaging, including follow-up x-rays and a CT scan to evaluate how all of the fracture to the left side of their body have healed.
January 15, 2022: A lot has happened for Bloodstone this past month. Upon examination last month, we found Bloodstone’s flipper fracture sight to be very swollen and hard to the touch. The x-ray revealed the fracture to have come apart some since our last exam. Our team elected to be a bit more rigorous in our treatment. We decided to use a treatment plan where twice per week we will pull Bloodstone from their tank to perform cold laser therapy on the flipper fracture site. Within about 2 weeks of doing this treatment, we noticed a significant reduction in the swelling! Next week, we will finish the first month of these treatments and will do another radiograph to assess any changes and choose how to proceed from there.
February 15, 2022: Last month, we mentioned that were were seeing a decrease in swelling of Bloodstone’s left front flipper as a result of laser therapy — now there is practically no swelling at all! The first month of those treatments concluded but since it was working so well and Bloodstone was tolerating it, we did another few weeks and have since discontinued the treatment. Bloodstone is looking great these days, and we will continue to monitor them closely.
March 15, 2022: Bloodstone was pulled from their tank this month for another physical exam. We also drew blood during this exam to see how Bloodstone is doing internally. The fractured front left flipper is notably stiffer at the elbow joint than the other flipper, but this does not seem to affect Bloodstone’s swimming at all. We will not be evaluating Bloodstone for release at the moment, but the bloodwork will give us a good idea of where they stand and what changes we can make for them in their remaining rehab.
April 15, 2022: A few weeks ago, we pulled blood to evaluate how Bloodstone was healing internally, as well as externally. Many times, turtles can look totally healthy on the outside, but their bloodwork can still come back poor. Bloodstone’s fractured flipper has totally healed up, and the bloodwork showed no signs of infection or lingering affects from the boat strike. Bloodstone had slightly low calcium values, so we have corrected their vitamins to account for that. In a few more weeks, we will likely begin evaluating Bloodstone for release. This means we will check the flipper and other wounds again, pull blood once more to see if the values have corrected and also have the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources tag Bloodstone.
May 15, 2022: After a month of getting extra calcium, we are hoping their values are now high enough to be released! Bloodstone was pulled for an exam, radiographs, bloodwork and tagging. Fingers crossed that they are cleared for release in the next few weeks!
May 20, 2022: Bloodstone had a quiet boat release today in Hamlin Sound. Once they were placed in the water, they gave us a little “side eye” and then took off. Wish Bloodstone the best of luck!