Spotlight shines on intern from Florida


Kemp’s ‘Lore’ recovers from her surgery and slowly being warmed with the hospital’s ‘exclusive sea turtle hot water bottles.’

Published: Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 12:06 PM.

With yet another intern hailing from the Gainesville area we suspect that there must be a big sign in Florida advertising our summer internship program. Not that we’re complaining, especially when this southern gal has had experience with a very special critter at the Florida Aquarium. “Flip,” a large Green sea turtle in permanent residence because of a flipper problem stole Annmarie Fearing’s heart when she was charged with feeding him. Aquarium animals are normally target trained and quickly learn that when they see a particular stimulus it means the dinner bell is ringing. Obviously we do not target train our patients since our goal is to send them home ASAP. They nevertheless quickly associate the appearance of our smiling faces as a sure sign that food is on the way, so maybe we are unsuspecting targets after all!

Annmarie had planned to apply for our internship last summer, but when circumstances didn’t cooperate she was determined not to let the opportunity slip away for a second year. A more intimate environment and a chance to work closely with our all-volunteer staff were definitely the big selling points for her. Funny then that her first reaction when arriving was “it’s big!” And big means a lot more work, but work that’s “never boring.” Even though we are always in the background we expect our interns to work closely together and to be organized and mature enough to learn all aspects of the hospital. Under our supervision we pretty much allow them to run the building for the three months they’re with us. Annmarie sees this as “an excellent opportunity to develop and grow my leadership skills.”

Everybody has a favorite turtle, and for Annmarie it’s one of our big ladies, “October.” October arrived with unspeakable physical and emotional trauma and still resides in our ICU. After many months she remains an enigma, and one of the most sensitive turtles we have ever had. She is acutely aware of her surroundings and can recognize when the “vibe” in the room has changed. Everyone who works with her is awestruck by this magnificent creature, and Annmarie is no exception.

Annmarie enjoys her part in our tours and likes talking to our visitors, relaying all the “cool facts” that she’s accumulating during her time here. She particularly enjoys telling the story of “Alpha” because not only are our guests interested in Alpha, but Annmarie swears that the turtle looks and acts like she’s trying to tell her story right alongside her.

Annmarie is thrilled be with us because she “sees things that most people never see.” She does counsel that participation in our program demands a real passion because “it’s hard, really hard work.” Once the day is done she loves hanging out with the other interns and enjoys scuba diving and kayaking. She may even attempt to learn to surf before returning as a rising senior to the University of Florida where she’ll complete her B.S. in zoology. She’s hoping to further her education in marine biology at UNCG, so just maybe we’ll be seeing her around in the not-too-distant future.

Fishing for the hook

Our ace turtle vet, Dr. Craig Harms, returned for a visit last week to check on a few of our patients and to perform surgery on little Kemp’s “Lore.” Lore has been under observation in our ICU after a battle with a rather large fishing hook. After shooting an updated set of radiographs Lore was moved into our new surgical suite and anesthetized. There Dr. Harms and his team began the process of locating and hopefully removing the hook. After meticulously and gently searching for almost an hour the hook remained elusive. Exactly where it is, how it got there and where it might eventually go may never be known. Lore was slowly brought back from her sweet turtle dreams and constantly tended to for the next several hours to ensure an uneventful recovery. Her throat will be sore for a few days, but the extra attention from our staff will surely make up for a few missed bowls of squid. Please remember that stainless steel hooks have a very long life, even in salt water, and especially inside of a sea turtle. If possible buy the old style metal hooks that quickly disintegrate and pose less of a danger to all sea creatures.

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