Blade, a kemps ridley sea turtle, came to our Animal Rescue team cold-stunned in late 2013. He had a large fracture of the upper and lower shell (carapace and plastron) that healed nicely over the first two months of his rehabilitation. After initially improving, Blade started to decline significantly in mid-February. Diagnostics showed he was septic (suffering from a systemic bacterial infection) with a resistant strain of Enterococcus bacteria.
His front flipper digit joints began to swell, and it appeared they were developing bacterial infections. He stopped using his front limbs. This is very rare in sea turtles; normally, digit infections don’t impact their swimming ability.
Radiographs and a CT scan showed the shoulder joints were infected as well. Biopsy and cultures confirmed the joint infections were due to the same bacteria found in Blade’s blood.
After aggressive antibiotic therapy and general supportive care, we were able to resolve the sepsis and distal limb infections. Blade showed some improvement in strength, but remained unusually quiet and weak, refusing to use his front limbs. A physical therapy program was started to improve limb motion.
Blade made a fantastic turnaround and started eating on his own, using those flippers and becoming more feisty with each new check-up with our Animal Health team. While in rehabilitation with the National Aquarium, Blade gained four pounds and was eating approximately one pound of seafood per week.
Staff and volunteers headed down to Ocean City, Maryland, to see Blade and three fellow rehabilitated turtles from the New England Aquarium off on a new adventure out in the big blue. After almost a year in rehabilitation, Blade’s release was so very rewarding for our team.
Each turtle was accompanied by a satellite tag and an acoustic tag for tracking purposes and research opportunities. Read more about Blade's travels and see a tracking map, here.
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