Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)
Stranding Location: Mitchellville Beach, Hilton Head, Beaufort, SC
Arrival Date: 11/7/2018
Weight: 11.7 kg (25.8 lbs)
Madam Poppy Pomfrey was found on Mitchellville Beach by Hilton Head Island lifeguard, Jerry Staub. Jerry contacted the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) and volunteer, Amber Kuehn, responded to the call. Amber transferred Poppy to her car and drove her halfway to the South Carolina Aquarium where SCDNR Staff, Kacie Ferguson met her. Kacie then transferred Poppy to her car and drove to the Aquarium where Sea Turtle Care Center staff and the vet staff quickly treated her.
Upon admit, Poppy had severe fibropapilloma tumors and leeches covering her flippers. Fibropopillomatosis (FP) is a disease that affects sea turtles. FP is thought to be caused by a herpes virus and can be transferred between sea turtles. Most commonly, FP affects green sea turtles, but it has also been seen in all other species, except the Leatherback. Turtles with FP have tumors externally and occasionally internally as well. The tumors can grow so large they can limit the turtle’s ability to swim and feed. FP tumors can even affect their sight. With the placement of Poppy’s tumors it is likely they affected her ability to swim, causing her to strand on the beach. It was important to get a CT of Poppy before going further with her triage. If internal tumors are present, the prognosis is poor. The CT showed no internal tumors so the vet team continued with her triage. Her bloodwork was poor, likely because of the tumors, so the vet team treated Poppy with vitamins, antibiotics and fluids. After receiving her fluids and vitamins, Poppy was set up on a waterbed to relax for the rest of the night.
November 13, 2018: The following day, Poppy was moved into a tank with low water. The water was partial freshwater to help remove the leech eggs and leeches. Since Poppy has a disease that can be transferred to other turtles, it is important to keep her separate from our other patients to ensure no cross contamination. The first day she was offered food, and she ate! She is receiving vitamins and antibiotics every couple of days to help with her poor bloodwork. Once her bloodwork becomes stable, vet staff will start to plan her surgeries to remove the tumors. Poppy has a long road ahead of her, but she seems to be enjoying her new, temporary home.
December 1, 2018: Poppy has been doing well! About a week after her admit she passed a piece of sheet plastic. This makes Poppy our 23rd patient to have passed marine debris in 18 years. We’re still examining her fecal closely to monitor for more plastic. Poppy has begun to regularly eat and defecate which is a huge step for her! She loves her tank in the Sea Turtle Care Center.
December 15, 2018:Poppy is doing well. She finished her iron injections and now is just receiving some antibiotics. We had her blood rechecked last week and it looks a little better than what it was when she first came in but, it still has a ways to go before we’re able to put her through surgery. Poppy has been eating great for us and is slowly gaining weight. We’re hopeful she’ll be ready to have surgery to start removing the tumors by January or February.
January 1, 2019: Poppy is cruising! In a week or so she has her next blood pull and hopefully it’ll have great values. She’s now eating a pound of veggies daily! She definitely makes sure to eat every last crumb. She also loves to hang out in her sea grass enrichment as well.
January 15, 2019: Poppy’s bloodwork improved and she is less anemic than at admit. She’s almost ready for surgery to remove her FP tumors. Poppy continues to gain weight and get stronger!
February 1, 2019: At Poppy’s last blood pull, we saw a great increase in her white blood cell count, but it still needed to be a little higher before we were completely comfortable putting her through surgery. She had another blood pull at the end of January and it still could use a little improvement but vet staff is comfortable moving forward with her surgery. Her surgery will be this week and we’re hoping to remove a decent amount of tumors from her body. I know she is ready to have the tumors removed! Check back for an update on Poppy after her surgery!
February 15, 2019: On February 3, Poppy underwent FP tumor removal surgery. Dr. Terry Norton from the Georgia Sea Turtle Center came up to assist our vet Dr. Bryan Vorbach with this case. Together they successfully removed a little over 3 pounds of tumors total, only leaving a few small tumors to be removed at a later time. After the surgery, Poppy’s blood work looked good, and she was placed on pain management drugs to keep her comfortable. Staff monitored her closely, even taking her home overnight to keep a close eye on her. Unfortunately, two days post-op, Poppy became unresponsive. The vet team administered emergency meds, but we were unable to bring her back. Though this is not the outcome any of us expected, and it’s always hard to lose a patient, we hope the knowledge from Poppy’s necropsy (an animal autopsy) will help us save more turtles like her in the future.