I’ve been thinking about writing this blog post for a long time. When the story first came to light we were told that we should definitely put this story into an article or blog post for anyone and everyone to read. I guess I should start at the beginning… It was around my birthday in 2009. My birthday is toward the end of the summer, so it’s always nice to have a barbecue to celebrate that end. My fiancé Susan, had decided that she would have the barbecue at her house but at the last minute the plans were changed, and we ended up going out to her parent’s house which is on the Eastern Prairie of Colorado. Now both Susan and her parents knew that I love turtles. Her parents lived in a rural area where there are always turtles on the side of the road in the summertime. As we were driving there sometimes I would stop and move the turtles off the road to make sure that they did not get hurt. Now when we went to Florida in 2009, we went over to the Space Coast and there is a nature preserve there. As we were driving around the narrow roads between the sand dunes we came upon a couple of large tortoises that were walking across the road. I believe they call them Gopher Tortoises in Florida. Of course, I had to stop the car get out and move them off the road.
This is all the background that you need to know my affinity for turtles. As we were finishing dinner and the presents began to flow, Susan’s mom brought out a tank with a turtle in it (A Western Ornate Box Turtle). As I look into the tank I noticed that the turtle has a damaged shell. Not just a little damage, the turtle has roughly a 4 inch gash slashed in the back of its shell. My first thought was; “That’s going to shorten the turtle’s life.” I was told that the vet out on the Eastern Prairie had mentioned that the damage to the shell should not keep the turtle from living a normal life. I took this with a grain of salt and decided to do my own research.
Now I bought all the amenities that a turtle needs. A large terrarium, a heating unit, a feeding tank, and all sorts of little things that would make the turtle’s life in the terrarium that much sweeter. I started to feed the turtle live crickets and mealworms and it was here that I noticed that the gash in the back could not be left the way it was. The crickets would crawl into the gash stay there and then crawl out. I knew this was not a healthy, germ-free environment for the turtle. If this gash were left open, the turtle would not live very long due to germs and infections that might get in under the broken shell. I decided to contact my vet and see what could be done.
Unfortunately my vet did not handle reptiles, but they did refer me to a vet in my hometown of Broomfield that was even closer than my normal vet. I called the doctor up and gave him the information about the turtle. The doctor told me to bring the turtle in so that he could do an evaluation and see exactly what happened to the turtle’s shell.
I brought the turtle in and the first thing the doctor said was that the gash in the shell would shorten the turtle’s life. The shell could not be left the way it was. I asked him what we could do, how we could help this turtle. He told me to take the weekend and contact the office on Monday morning to set up an appointment. On Monday I called and set up the appointment, and two days later the doctor was operating on the turtle.
Now the doctor himself had never done anything like this on a turtle and had to research the operation before he undertook it. The turtle was put under anesthesia and then the dead shell was removed so that only growing tissue was showing. After that was completed, the doctor put a bio-preen resin over the crack and filled it in. He then took five zip ties and pulled them tight to pull the shell together. Over all of this the doctor had cut off the back end of a latex glove and then instructed me that I needed to do the same for the next six weeks. You will see from the picture how the turtle looked after the operation was finalized.
Because of everything that happened with the turtle shell, Susan and I named the turtle “Hump-T.” The name was derived from the old nursery rhyme where “all the King’s horses and all the King’s men could not put Humpty Dumpty back together again.” In this case we actually did put Hump-T back together again.
Be kind to the creatures we share this planet with, sometimes they need our help.
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