Rescued with a traumatic and painful injury to her hind flipper, sea lion Angie required a full flipper amputation to save her life.
August 8, 2013
Rescued from Morro Strand State Beach on July 24 with a serious flipper injury, this young California sea lion was named Angie in honor of one of The Marine Mammal Center’s San Luis Obispo Operations volunteers who helped with the rescue.
When she arrived at the Center’s hospital, Angie had an open and swollen wound on her left rear flipper and our veterinarians determined she had a bad infection in the bones of that flipper. If left alone, they knew the infection could spread and compromise her health even further, possibly even proving fatal.
Because Angie was also in severe pain, she was quickly taken into surgery and two severely broken and infected digits in her flipper were removed.
Similar to human fingers, sea lion flippers have five digits. Taking the most conservative approach, veterinarians only removed Angie’s fourth and fifth digits (equivalent to the thumb and index finger on a human hand) with the hope that the other bones in her flipper would respond to the antibiotics.
For the next week Angie was treated with antibiotics and pain medication and she ate well, which was a great sign. However, after a week the wound was still swollen and oozing, so our veterinarians feared that the bone infection was spreading and would become life threatening.
X-rays confirmed their suspicion. It was clear that Angie’s best chance for survival required them to perform a delicate, full-flipper amputation. Fortunately, The Marine Mammal Center has done successful rear-flipper amputations in the past and we know that sea lions can do very well in the wild with only one rear flipper.
In 2012, we had a young sea lion patient named Bazingo whose injury was so serious his right hind flipper needed to be removed. Bazingo did very well after the surgery and after his wounds healed and he had gained some weight, he was released back to the wild.
Angie’s surgery took four hours, during which time she was completely anesthetized. Veterinarians have been closely monitoring her incisions for any signs of infection and she is still receiving pain medication and antibiotics.
It’s only been a week since the amputation, but Angie is eating and swimming well. Our veterinarians are optimistic that she will have a strong recovery and will be able to return to the wild as a three-flippered sea lion.
Angie has now symbolically joined Run for the Seals, becoming a member of Team Ziggy Star! Show your support for this brave sea lion!
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