Almost two years ago a Kemp’s ridley named Fin became a patient at the STAR Center at the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island. Coming in from a possible boating accident, Fin has come a long way and still has a ways to go. When she was found, Fin had two previous injuries in the process of healing, a propeller strike to her carapace and a chunk missing from her rear right flipper; later another injury to her left front flipper was discovered. However, the most concerning injury was a serious wound to her head. From the beginning they knew it would be hard, but in the end it would be worth it.
In her time here Fin has gone through multiple surgeries. A CT scan revealed that her head wound went all the way through to her neck. To assist this wound in healing they opened her neck and removed a mass of scar tissue. Then after discovering her left front flipper was fractured in three different places she underwent surgery to remove necrotic bone from this wound. Afterwards an external fixator with pins was attached to her flipper to help the bone heal correctly.
The surgeries on her neck were a huge success, and it’s fully healed now. However the external fixator didn’t yield the full result the vets wanted, and her flipper is still in the process of healing. Even with all of this going on, there was still yet another problem for Fin to overcome.
From the head and neck injury, there was damage to Fin’s jaw. When she first arrived Fin couldn’t eat on her own, and had to be force fed. Through hard work, medications, and physical therapy Fin has come a long way. Fin became able to eat small pieces of food in her own, eventually graduating to eating blue crabs (the natural prey of the Kemp’s ridley) cut into quarters. As of a few weeks ago, Fin was finally able to eat a live crab on her own!
Fin is now moving around her tank with ease, eating crabs, and generally doing better. The next step for her is to become able to swim in deeper water. We’re hopeful that she will continue to get better and be released sometime in the upcoming year.