Lola’s necropsy

August 17, 2006

Yesterday Dr. Mettee conducted a necropsy on Lola to determine cause of death. With all the shell material and concerns about her digestive system we were sure that was where the problem would be. We expected to find a perforated intestine or at least severely damaged sections of intestine related to the immense amount of sand dollars in there (x-ray here).

Turns out the intestine was completely intact and healthy. There was some scarring in the inside of the intestine itself from the sand dollars but it appeared that she was beginning to improve. We saw evidence of this during her last few days – increased appetite, energy and and alertness.

So what went wrong? Congestive heart failure. There was a small tear in the pulmonary trunk and essentially she bled out into the pericardial sac that surrounds the heart. We do not know what caused the weakened part of the pulmonary trunk however, there was a clearly visible lesion in the area. We will send the tissue to a pathologist to try to determine what caused the problem.

Unfortunately, there was nothing we could have done to predict or prevent such an event. Fortunately for Lola it was likely a quick and painless death.

Below is a sea turtle heart, thanks to Dr. Jeanette Wyneken.


From “The Anatomy of Sea Turtles” Copyright 2001 Jeanette Wyneken


Sparrow = Franklin Jr.

August 14, 2006

For those of you who remember Franklin, you will remember that he was an exuberant sub-adult loggerhead that verged on vicious. Getting him out of the tank was always an adventure – mind that beak!


Franklin a.k.a “The Mangler”


Well, Sparrow is a bit like “Son of Franklin”. This turtle is still having a really bad attitude about getting injections. If you are wielding the syringe you have to keep track of your hands and that beak because Sparrow is taking the role of dinosaur very seriously (nobody told him that he is not a man-eating dinosaur). Sometimes we are happier than others to see a turtle go – Sparrow’s release will be one of the happy happy ones.

For those of you with iron stomachs and insatiable curiosity (an impaired sense of smell helps too) we are planning to necropsy Lola Wednesday in the vicinity of noon. If you are in the area, please feel free to come on by.

Special thanks to our volunteer Larry who brought in some beautiful Florida lobsters. Joy says thanks! On a good note, she has devoured one live lobster and is increasingly aggressive with the dead ones. Her jaw is improving steadily.

Not so good news

August 8, 2006

Sadly, Lola did not make it. We are in fact a bit surprised because she did appear to be gaining strength and improving. Dr. Mettee saw her on Sunday and was pleased with her progress and we were all hopeful.

It is especially hard to lose the turtles that are at or near adult size. They have survived so much to make it that far and are at a point where they can contribute to the turtle population through reproduction. We don’t like to lose any turtles but these are the toughest.

We will perform a necropsy sometime within the next few weeks to determine the cause of death.

Happy dance

August 4, 2006

If you had been in the yard early today you would have seen a happy dance. And the reason for celebration:


Yeah baby! Experienced turtle folks will know exactly what that is. It’s what we have been waiting for from our friend Lola. It’s, uh, ‘recycled’ crab bits and sand dollars. This means that her digestive tract is working as it should. The good news for this very hungry turtle is that we can begin to increase the amount of food she is getting. She has been complaining bitterly that the portions have been small for a girl her size – but we had to wait until we knew that things were moving before we could up her rations. So she may be pleasantly surprised today at lunch with some extra squid on her plate.

In other news, everyone else is doing well. Sparrow ate yesterday which was a surprise given the surgery the day before. Sparrow is mad and pacing and will be out of here as soon as the incision is healed. Miracle is still hanging in there. We are hoping that the injury is mostly soft tissue swelling and bruising that will improve over time.

Good news

July 31, 2006

Or at least better news. While Lola has not yet started with the poo, she has started eating on her own. Thanks to the patient weekend volunteers, Lola started eating squid this weekend. We are currently limiting her intake until we know her system is moving well but it is a good sign that she is interested in food. Even the little bit of calories she is getting is a big boost to her overall health.


Lola gives us the “stink eye”.

It takes a good long time for a turtle to starve to death (don’t have an exact number but it’s certainly months) and Lola was certainly on her way. It looks like she may be past that point. Another good sign today was that she tried to crawl off the gurney when having her face scrubbed. She didn’t get too far because she is still very weak but we love to see that bad attitude come out.

At the spa

July 28, 2006

Here is Lola getting the spa treatment at the LMC. Some of our great volunteers are removing barnacles and leech eggs while Lola receives fluids and medical treatment. She was force fed a bit of fish yesterday and today in hopes of getting that digestive system working but she still not eaten on her own.



On another note, Frappuccino was released by our friends at FWC today. This turtle played ambassador at a surf camp in Stuart. While learning about turtles the would-be surfers got to witness Frappuccino’s release. Let’s hope Frappy converted some of those kids to turtle fans.

More poo!

July 26, 2006

And more poo is a good thing! Dr. Mettee came by for rounds today and was able to remove more material from Lola’s lower G.I. tract. (If you are curious about how that happens, let’s just say that it involves a very long glove – and the good Doctor hopes to never have to do it again.) The fact that the material was not there on Saturday – which means that it has actually moved from higher in the colon – is great news.

While she is by no means out of the woods, it is a bit of improvement. The stricture that was encountered on Saturday seems to be gone. This means it was not a permanent defect and so surgery would appear to be ruled out of the picture for now. The next week is very important – her system needs to start working well on it’s own but we are all pleased with today’s progress.

Below is an x-ray of Lola’s left side showing some of the shell material in her intestines. There is 3 times that much material on the right side. (The x-ray is backwards because that is how vets look at them).

Lola’s x-ray: A – barnacles, B – intestine filled with shell, C – left knee