Friday, September 7, 2012

Good Hope - A Turtle Story

An entire week has passed since I posted; that almost never happens.  Over the course of the last week, we've been exceptionally busy, although I'm not sure doing what.  Most of you can probably understand that though, right?  Happens to the best of us!  I'd like to tell you a story about something going on with a special turtle at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon right now.

Tropical Storm Isaac brought some havoc to animal life through the Caribbean.  One of those victims is an endangered hawksbill sea turtle.  It seems an adult egg-laden female was found on a beach, gravely injured, in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  She has myriad problems, not the least of which is two very bad wounds to her shoulders. Although no one can know for sure what happened, suspicions are that she became entangled in fishing gear, and then was gaffed repeatedly so the gear could be retrieved.  After gaffing (if you don't know what that means, look it up, its horrible) she was likely tossed back to the sea as an afterthought to die.  Eventually this turtle took a beating through Isaac, and ultimately washed up on a beach in the Virgin Islands.  She was found and treatment attempted there, but her injuries were beyond what could be handled locally. Through a fortuitous set of circumstances, the Turtle Hospital in Marathon was contacted; the turtle was flown from the Virgin Islands to Miami, and then the transported via turtle ambulance to The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida Keys.  She is there now.  She has been named "Good Hope."

So, Good Hope is in Marathon being treated.  Her condition is very critical, although she has managed to survive the first few days here, which many thought would not happen.  Hawksbill turtles are endangered.  This particular turtle is full of eggs that she didn't get a chance to lay.  Hopes are the eggs are fertile, but there's no way to know that for sure.  So, what is happening is through the expert care of Dr. Doug Mader (who is volunteering his time once again for the Turtle Hospital) a rehab team is caring for Good Hope.  I've had the privilege of speaking with Dr. Mader a couple times about the status of Good Hope (Dr. Mader is also the veterinarian we use for our own companion animals; he and his wife, Dr. Geraldine Diethelm are among the top vets I've ever known).  He explained that her condition is grave indeed, but absolutely any and all efforts are being made to save her.  He wondered aloud to me whether she'd survive the first 48-72 hours, but quickly followed that up with his feelings that hope should never be lost.  Good Hope has been ultra sounded, and there are around 80-100 eggs inside.  She has laid 25 eggs since becoming a patient at The Turtle Hospital.  A special drug was ordered and just arrived that may be used to help induce the rest of her eggs.  Not only is it important to get the rest of the eggs laid and incubated for their own hopes of hatching, but as well as Good Hope.  She needs as much energy as possible to aid in her own recovery, so inducing will be good for her as well.  All eggs will be incubated, and hopefully hatch.

You can follow along with updates about Good Hope at the Turtle Hospital's website (  I cannot get Good Hope out of my mind.  She's a beautiful turtle, and certainly didn't deserve the fate fallen upon her with her injuries.  The flip side of that is she's one of the luckier turtles when it comes to injuries. Most turtles who have things like this happen to them suffer alone and for a long time before finally succumbing to their injuries far away in the sea.  She could not have ended up in care of anyone finer than Dr. Doug Mader.  He's kind of an enigma to me, but that's a story for another day.  Dr. Mader is an excellent doctor with a creative and visionary mind. He is able to innovate on the spot, a talent that is especially needed when dealing with animals who have injuries that most would never imagine, let alone see in their practice.  We are immensely grateful to Dr. Mader, The Turtle Hospital, and everyone else who is volunteering the time and donating money/services to help Good Hope.  She has touched many people with her plight, and the courage within her to survive obviously runs deep.  This is a turtle who is not ready to die, and we hope everyone will keep good thoughts for Good Hope and her caregivers.

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