Friday, April 2, 2010

Dead or Alive?

Is Erica alive?

I'm at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island, Ga., and one of the turtles, Erica, is just floating there. Nothing is moving. No fin flaps, no nose bubbles, nothing. Her neck (with a barnacle attached) bows so her chin drops downward. Her eyes are closed, not squeezed shut, just closed. Her shell is partially submerged and her fins dangle beneath her.

She looks dead. She acts dead. I watch for quite a while. Nothing is moving. She must be dead. Or close to it. 

I look around and there's no one to call for help. It's five minutes to 5 p.m., official closing time, and I notice, to my left,  lots of people in green shirts and white badges scurrying around outside the building, probably closing down for the evening. But, no one is inside with me and this dead 215-pound turtle. If she is dead. Does she need to be resuscitated?

I wish I could reach over this little ledge in front of me and just poke at her, to see if she moves, or just bobbles, like a dead turtle.

The little info page in front of me explains that Erica is a 215 pound loggerhead picked up in Florida's Seashore Key in July 2009. Kayakers found her floating in the water. Like she is now. Just floating.

Finally, I see a green-shirted 20-something within shouting distance and I holler out and wave at her:  "Excuse me." She walks my way, with a smile. "Is this turtle OK?"

"Oh, she's floating."

Yes, I see that.

My face must beg for more information, because she continues to explain about Erica. The turtle has a tear in her lung which causes excessive air to build up, hence her floating. The vets, hoping for a natural healing, have delayed surgery as long as possible, but at the end of this month, Erica goes on the board and under the knife to repair the wound.

So, she is alive. Just floating. Maybe there should be a sign saying she's OK. 

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