The doctor is in — and being kept busy

April 24 turtle hospital

Veterinarian Dr. Harms, along with resident, Jenessa, and vet tech, Heather, spend the day giving turtles in the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center Sick Bay pre-release exams.

Submitted photo
Published: Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 01:04 PM.

Spring is here (at least most of the time) and that means a visit from our favorite personality, the Easter vet. Recently Dr. Harms, along with his resident, Jenessa, and vet tech, Heather, arrived ready to spend the day giving our little guys (and the big girls) in Sick Bay their pre-release exams. And with about half of our 60 patients still in residence in ICU that’s a lot of carapaces, flippers and other body parts that have to be assessed.

Normally, once these guys are fed, bathed and returned to their tanks they settle in for a mid-morning nap. They were in for a rude awakening, literally. First stop was the weigh and measure station, and a quick review of their admittance weight verses current kg’s clearly proves that we don’t cheap out on food for our patients. OK — maybe some of them were a bit zaftig, but that just means more swim time in the therapy pool before they’re sent home in June. At least we can’t be accused of sending them off hungry!

Next stop, the exam table, where under the discerning headlamp of Dr. Harms and Jenessa’s powerful flashlight every scute and scale was examined. A small ultrasound wand measured their heart rate, and then it was time to donate a little blood for the cause (their release.) Sea turtles do not have retractable heads, but some of them tried their darndest to prove otherwise when that needle headed their way! While Heather was in our lab spinning their donation in our centrifuge, each patient was given a pat on the head and returned to his or her tank where they could finally get back to that nap.

After checking the progress of October, Alpha and Dudley (our ICU loggerheads who are not ready for release) we moved into Sea Turtle Bay to get a head-start on next month’s physicals and to have Dr. Harms check on a few areas we were concerned about on some of our patients. Not-so-little-anymore greens “Lewbart,” “Sigmon” and “Earle” caught a ride down the hall to the stat and exam areas. Lewbart, who always has more energy than five turtles put together, got some bonus swim time in the therapy pool in an effort to tire him out before the ride back to this tank. It kind of worked ...

After one last procedure, a radiograph of Kemp’s Ridley “Thing One,” we called it a day very late in the afternoon — at least as far as official medical stuff. There was a new patient in route, expected to arrive within the hour. The work never ends, and we love it!

And coming up

May is a whirlwind of activity at the hospital. We have our new crop of senior interns starting their 12-week stint, and we still have pre-release physicals to complete for the big guys and gals in Sea Turtle Bay. The new hospital has meant a lot of changes to procedures, especially with the way we handle water. Our water used to be free — pumped right out of the sound. Now we have to make salt water, and salt ain’t cheap. Each tank will have to be totally drained so we can get inside for the exams, but the water must be preserved so it can be reused. It’s going to be a lot of work, but we’ve MacGyvered our way through tough situations before so we’ve already got a plan. Too bad there’s not an “app” for this.

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