Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)
Stranding Location: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Arrival Date: 7/29/2021
Weight: 38 kg (88 lbs)
Sunstone was hooked by a fisher on Myrtle Beach. When the fisher pulled Sunstone onto the beach, he was hooked in the left front flipper, which had already sustained a severe injury, causing the majority of the flipper to be missing. The fisher promptly contacted the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) and SCDNR permit holders Linda Mataya and Chris Lee responded to the stranding. Chris Lee then transported this patient to the Sea Turtle Care Center™ for evaluation and treatment.
At admit, Sunstone was very active and feisty and appeared to be in relatively good body condition. The injury to the left front flipper was pretty severe; there was some exposed bone present and the injury appeared to be fresh. Once in the exam room, admitting staff obtained a weight, took x-rays to access the injury to the flipper and made sure Sunstone had not swallowed a secondary hook. There was only one hook located in the injured front flipper, and no other hooks were present. Given the appearance of the missing left front flipper and the presence of rake marks on the tissue, and also underneath the bottom of the right front flipper, this injury was likely caused by a shark bite. The tissue around the injury was shredded, and there was no active bleeding at admit. However, it was not an old injury and had probably happened a few days prior to being hooked. The hook was easily removed, blood was pulled and the injury was flushed and treated with topical antibiotic ointments. Sunstone was started on a course of antibiotics to help prevent any potential infection caused as a result of the shark bite. She also received fluids and vitamins. Lastly, she was left to rest comfortably in a padded foam bin with a small amount of water until a tank was ready for her.
August 15, 2021: Sunstone was pretty quiet her first couple of days settling into her temporary home. Some of the injured tissue in the left front flipper is becoming necrotic and coming away from the wound, so there is more exposed bone present than there was at admit. As the injury to her left front flipper heals, it’s going to look worse before it gets better. We have her in a tank with ozone to keep the water disinfected, to help mitigate bacterial growth in the tank and aid in wound healing. We have also started cold laser therapy on the injured flipper while she is out for her antibiotic injections. Cold laser therapy helps to reduce inflammation, increase blood circulation to the affected area and speed up the overall healing process. She has started eating on her own and is now on a weighted diet. Depending on how the wound heals, we may have to do some debridement to remove any dead bone or tissue down the road, but for now her treatment plan is working out well.
September 15, 2021: Turns out, we had to do very little work on Sunstone’s flipper wound! After we finished the laser therapy and antibiotics, we pretty much left the flipper alone to finish healing on its own. Sunstone is in a tank that has ozone built into it, which means the water is incredibly clean on a molecular level. The ozone, paired with frequent water changes, really helps keep the water and wound clean and clear of infectious disease exposure or bacteria growth. The flipper looks great these days, and Sunstone is on the mend. She gets around her tank easily and has no issues maneuvering, even though she is missing almost an entire front flipper.