Monday, October 20, 2014 Headlines & Global News

Orangutan at Houston Zoo Saved by Doctors

By Natalie Mieles N.Mieles@hngn.com | Aug 28, 2014 03:09 PM EDT

Human Doctors Save Orangutan from Houston Zoo
Human doctors, along with veterinary doctors, were needed to save an orangutan's life. (Photo : Twitter )

Human doctors from the Texas Medical Center helped save the life of a 42-year-old orangutan at the Houston Zoo, along with the zoo's vets, according to CBS.

After Cheyenne, the orangutan who has been at Houston Zoo since 1993, became less active and began to eat less, the vets at the zoo found evidence of immature white blood cells in her blood.

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"There was evidence of infection, possible muscle disease, evidence of urinary tract infection, she has multiple things going on that results in her being super sick," said Lauren Howard, zoo veterinary doctor.

That's when the zoo's vets decided they had to ask doctors for help.

"When (the animals) need more, they need intensive human care," Dr. Howard told Chron. "We just don't have that expertise. In human medicine there are specialists - like with the kidney - all they do is work on that one thing."

They reached out to Dr. Laurie Swaim and Dr. Creighton Edwards, who are both professors at Baylor College of Medicine and experts at Texas Children's Hospital Pavilion for Women.

Swaim immediately accepted and offered her services for free, according to Chron.

"Animals give us so much without even realizing what they do," Dr. Swaim told CBS. "If there's a new drug, it's experimented on animals, so if there's some little modicum of something I can do to help them [I want to help]."

The doctors, along with a medical intern, performed an abdominal surgery on Cheyenne, but did not find any abnormalities, reported CBS.

But when the infection got worse, the team called Dr. Venkata Bandi, a professor at Baylor College of Medicine who had never worked on animals before.

"To be frank, I was worried, this was a first," Bandi told Chron. "You have the physician mentality, am I going to help or hurt her? If you can't help that's ok, but you don't want to end up hurting her."

Cheyenne needed a more stable intravenous line to help deliver medications and food. 

Texas Children's Hospital neonatal team assisted in inserting an IV into a vein in Cheyenne's ankle. She was also kept slightly sedated throughout the two weeks she received treatment. During that time, she received fluids and antibiotics, according to CBS.

The zoo staff continued to watch over Cheyenne, feeding her pureed fruits and vegetables and "milkshake concoctions."

Now Cheyenne, the oldest orangutan at the zoo, is gradually improving and has been reunited with her adoptive daughter, Aurora.

"She was so happy to be reunited with Aurora, everyone who saw it had tears in their eyes. It was almost like once she got that infant back she was ready to go," Dr. Howard told Chron.

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