(This story has been updated, after the Loggerhead sea turtle's passing Aug. 9, see link: www.captivasanibel.com/page/content.detail/id/526691.html
It's been a long, challenging recovery process for an adult Loggerhead female sea turtle since being hit by a boat propeller over three months ago, but the staff at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation for Wildlife is pulling out all the stops for her to be able to see the wild, free water once again.
The CROW hospital staff have dubbed their longterm patient, "Honey", as the large fracture in her shell is slowly healing. But with all the tender loving care the sea turtle is receiving at CROW, it's coming at a hefty price tag, which is currently in the area of $18,000.
That cost includes the high amount of man hours put in to ensure Honey is receiving the best care possible. But with the increasing cost of care, CROW is turning to the kindness of the public, something in which they felt before during their care for Ozzie, the Eagle Cam star, who was returned safely to the wild after a few months of rehab of a broken clavicle.
CROW officials are hoping people are just as giving during the care for Honey, which will be rehabilitating for many more months.
"This sea turtle is a very valuable animal genetically, because she is an adult Loggerhead female capable of laying eggs, which makes her a very valuable animal in terms of contributing conservation of the species," said CROW hospital director Dr. Heather Barron. "Sea turtles get the top pick of resources available to us. They will get the absolutely best care anyone can offer. No stone is left unturned."
CROW's Willow Bender performs an injection on Honey. (Photo by MEGHAN MCCOY)
First off, CROW is asking for donations of blue crabs, the sea turtle's favorite food. With Honey still suffering from anemia (lack of producing red blood cells), her appetite is affected. The only food she does eat when her appetite is down, are blue crabs.
"She will eat any amount of blue crabs, but 20 per day is what we feed her, with a supplement of fish," said CROW senior wildlife rehabilitator Willow Bender. "We are asking for people to bring blue crab they caught in, as well. We can freeze and store them for later use."
Another way to help ensure Honey has a healthy supply of food is through CROW's website at crowclinic.org/ and click the "donate" button on the lower right.
Honey was brought into CROW in grave condition April 21, with two fractures to her shell. She weighed in at 120 pounds and is 80-centimeters long and 65-centimeters wide. An eight-inch by four to five-inch chunk of shell was removed right above her tail, while another piece was worked on right above her right back flipper.
"Visually, I've seen much worse, but her issue was that her lungs were exposed and the fracture was near the spine," Bender said. "If there was anymore damage to her spinal cord, she would have been paralyzed.
"I am really surprised she was able to make it this far. She still isn't out of the clear, though, because it was a pretty bad wound."
The biggest expense in caring for Honey has been the amount of man hours put in by the CROW staff. Dr. Barron estimates about an average of four hours per day has been needed to care for the sea turtle, with the amount of time put in to care for the average patient is a half-hour a day.
"The primary expense has been the unbelievable amount of man hours put into her care," Dr. Barron said. "There are days, like after a surgery, where we will put in five hours of care."
The biggest risk due her traumatic injuries was infection, since the fractures did expose internal organs. Wound care and changing of bandages was almost an everyday occurrence, in which CROW uses the best materials known.
When she needs wound care, Honey is brought up to the dedicated surgical suite, where she has anesthesia-induced pain killing treatment.
"She gets the morphine derivative treatment, which is the best kind and her general anesthesia is the best, but also is the most expensive," Dr. Barron added.
At least once a day or every other day, her wounds are treated with Manukaguard Medical Grade Manuka honey. Her usual treatment uses half a jar each time, with each jar costing $32.99.
Her wounds are wrapped in the best bandage out there named Tegaderm, with one roll used each time, costing $60 a roll. Each bandage is replaced every three days, or every day for a few days, if a surgery was performed.
Arthrex medical company based out of Naples and Fort Myers, has offered very important help throughout the rehab of Honey. Arthrex introduced JumpStart therapy for Honey and is helping the CROW staff administer it.
JumpStart is a wireless, advanced microcurrent generating dressing used for the management of surgical incision sites.
There are macrocell batteries made out of silver and zinc, and combined with electrical currents, stimulate the surrounding area to provide antimicrobial protection to promote faster healing.
A surgery on Honey's shell will be performed this week, where she will undergo xenografts, which are tissues or cells from another species transplanted into another. This process is also spearheaded by Arthrex.
"The Arthrex people have been coming out every week to help us with the procedures, and it's a very big help to us," Dr. Barron said. "Their research and development people are coming and working with us to help think of a way to save this sea turtle. They are looking at xenografts, and with the technology they have, it allows them to remove components which causes rejection by the body."
Another expensive procedure done to fight the infection has been maggot therapy, where maggots are inserted in the wound to eat up the infected tissue. One application costs $150, with three maggot therapies being performed, thus far.
The progressive wound care negative wound therapy kits, costs $668.09 each (with each containing a pack of 15) and is an important tool in Honey's rehab.
The vacuum therapy costs $50 per time, which is used every time a bandage is changed.
But these expensive treatments are not going in vain, with progress being made the last three months.
"She is doing well, clinically," Dr. Barron said. "She is eating well, but one thing she is still affected by is her low red cell blood count. We are treating her with a (medicine) for anemia, which is $300, as well."
Dr. Barron believes the sea turtle has a chance to make it back out in the wild, but will have "months" of recovery ahead of her, yet.
But all the work and costs to bring Honey this far along after a devastating injury, has been well worth it for the CROW staff.
"It's been tough, she had to go through a lot of surgeries and it's also taken a toll on the staff here at CROW, because we care for her so much," Bender said. "She is getting great care and I feel we are pulling out all the stops for her and that's wonderful.
"We just want her to get better."
To help ensure Honey finds her way back out in the ocean, people can donate by visiting CROW's website at crowclinic.org/ or calling 239-472-3644.
People can also go to CROW's Amazon wish list, located at www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/2VIWQDEQZPBB7/ref=cm_wl_rlist_go_v?.