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Angie the Amputee – An Inspiration For All!

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.

With a severely injured flipper, veterinarians took action to relieve Angie’s pain. Photo by Ingrid Overgard © The Marine Mammal Center.

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.

Angie after her first surgery that removed two digits from her injured rear flipper. Photo by Ingrid Overgard © The Marine Mammal Center.

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.

An x-ray (left) taken after Angie’s first surgery to remove two digits confirmed that there was more infection in the bone (see circled area). The X-ray on the right, taken after the 4-hour amputation surgery, shows where Angie’s tibia and fibula were surgically severed. Image © The Marine Mammal Center.

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 the amputee sea lion is doing well. She is able to eat and swim as well as her full-flippered pen mate just one week after losing her left hind flipper. Photo by Ingrid Overgard © The Marine Mammal Center.

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!



Read about another successful amputation

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