Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)
Stranding Location: Cherry Grove Pier, Myrtle Beach, SC
Arrival Date: 8/13/2019
Weight: 10.5 lbs
Ed was hooked by a fisherman on Tuesday, August 13, 2019. A group of women on the pier assisted in getting Ed to the beach. They saw that Ed had braided fishing line wrapped around his left front flipper. Unfortunately, the line continued into the mouth and out his cloaca, meaning it was throughout his entire body. Linda Mataya, a South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) transporter, responded to the call, rescued this little guy off, and transported him to the South Carolina Aquarium. Once Ed arrived, Sea Turtle Care Center staff began triaging quickly to assess the severity of situation.
Upon admit, staff took radiographs to see if there were any hooks present in his body. Luckily, radiographs showed no hooks present, but unfortunately, braided fishing line doesn’t show up on x-rays. With the line going completely throughout his body, staff was concerned about the damage the line could be causing to his esophagus, stomach and intestines. Vet staff took a CT of Ed to better access the location of the line in his body. Ed was given some pain medication to allow him to be more comfortable and calmer during the CT. While the medications were taking effect, staff took measurements, analyzed his blood, did a full physical exam to look for any other injuries, and removed some fishing line from his left front flipper. Ed’s bloodwork was poor, and his body condition was very thin. Ed was most likely sick before getting caught on the line.
The CT image showed areas of plication, or folding, in the intestines. The pull or tension of the line moving through the intestines caused stress, and the areas under the most tension to pulled together like an accordion. Left untreated, the tissue in the plicated sections of the intestine could die or the line could tear through the intestinal wall. Ed also received an ultrasound so vet staff could take a look at his intestines, and an endoscopy to get a better view of the damage to his GI tract. A radiopaque contrast liquid, called Gastroview, was also tube fed to help highlight the view of his GI tract on additional x-rays and CT scans. Vet staff decided that surgery would be the best option to remove the monofilament line and to give him his best chance of survival. Ed was set up on a waterbed and given fluids, antibiotics, and vitamins and was left resting comfortably overnight before his big surgery day.
August 19, 2019: The morning after admit, Ed was in surgery for several hours. Dr. Shane Boylan performed an enterotomy procedure, making several incisions to the intestines, and removed roughly 16 inches of line from Ed’s GI tract and a little more from his mouth. During surgeries, it is important to keep track of the patient’s vitals, and we began to see Ed’s heart rate drop slightly so we went ahead and closed him up and began the recovery process. The recovery process for reptiles can take several hours; we set a ventilator up to breathe for Ed overnight and had staff check on him throughout the night. The next morning Ed was responsive and put into water later that afternoon.
The past few days he has become very active and swimming around constantly. We are not going to offer food because of the sutures in his intestines as well as the line that’s still in his body. He is receiving fluids and vitamins daily to help him keep his electrolytes up. Hopefully, Ed will pass the remaining line. We’re going to keep a close eye on him and potentially do another surgery next week if needed. Ed’s prognosis is guarded; there is a lot he still has to make it through before he’s in the clear. Send Ed all your positive thoughts; he’s going to need it!
September 1, 2019: Ed is overall doing well. Over the past couple weeks, he has had a couple more CT scans and several exams. We’ve recently started feeding him one squid every day. Typically, we don’t like to feed out squid because it’s almost like eating junk food; it’s not very nutritious for sea turtles. In his case, because he had surgery on his intestines, we wanted something that doesn’t have bones and is easy to digest. We’ve fed him two squids that were soaked in a contrast dye to help to visualize his intestines on CT. We’ve been able to see quite a bit from the squid! It has allowed us to see that there doesn’t appear to be any areas of complication, and it looks like some of the contrast is working its way out. We hope that means some of the line will be with it as he defecates out the contrast. Recently, Ed’s been getting one calcium-injected squid per day. The calcium will help to balance out the low nutritional value of squid. He immediately goes after the squid and slurps it up like a spaghetti noodle. He’s also receiving daily fluids and vitamins to insure he’s getting all the electrolytes and vitamins his body needs. We hope that by next week, if all goes as planned, we can start feeding him pieces of boneless fish. Ed still has a very long road ahead of him and his prognosis is guarded.