If you read Diana’s blog post on Saturday, then you know that Negra recently sustained an injury to her toe that we’ve been closely monitoring. After careful consideration, we decided that we needed to intervene surgically to help speed the healing process and reduce the risk of long-term complications. Yesterday, our amazing volunteer veterinarian, Dr. Zamzow, along with Dan and Laura, two skilled and generous anesthesiologists, came out to conduct the minor operation.
Procedures like these actually begin the night before, when we isolate and withhold food from the chimpanzee being treated. In the morning, we shift all of the other chimpanzees into another area so that the patient can enjoy some peace and quiet during the anesthetic induction. Of course, these chimpanzees have been around the block a few times, so they know what’s going on. Sometimes they express concern and want to see what’s happening inside – especially the group’s den mother, Jody:
The chimpanzee being treated is given an injectable anesthetic in an enclosure designed for this purpose – it’s small and has no furniture or other things to climb on so that they won’t get hurt as they lose their coordination from the anesthetic (right now this is one of the front rooms – the same room you’ve seen in recent videos where the chimps like to watch their playroom parties being set up). Once they are fully anesthetized, we strap them on a stretcher and wheel them to the clinic where they’re put on gas anesthesia and hooked to cardiac and anesthetic monitors for their safety.
Our clinic, which is in the back of a 38-foot trailer, has served us well for the few procedures we have had to do, but part of the expansion project we hope to break ground on this year includes even better spaces for anesthesia induction, medical intervention, and recovery. The new and improved space will help the seven chimpanzees currently at CSNW as well as the new chimpanzees we expect to welcome over the next few years.
Here’s Negra in the clinic being prepped for surgery:
Anesthesia can be hard on a chimpanzee, particularly when they are older or ill. That’s why we try to do as much health monitoring and treatment
as we can while they are awake using positive reinforcement training. But sometimes more complicated procedures require full anesthesia. Thankfully, Negra did great throughout the procedure, and she was soon on her way back to the enclosure where she could be monitored during her recovery. As one of our anesthesiologists taught us, anesthesiology is like flying a plane – the most dangerous times are takeoff and landing. So as a chimpanzee recovers, we have to watch them very closely. We position them on their side near the caging, propped up by blankets, so that we can monitor their breathing and pull their ET tube when they’re ready.
Once they start coming to, they feel generally crummy for a little while. But soon they realize that they are on a pile of blankets on a heated floor, and what better opportunity is there to take a nice long nap?
Negra is starting to feel better this morning, slowly but surely. It’s best for her to remain apart from the group for a little while longer to give her toe a better chance of healing quickly. So she’s been grooming with her friends through the caging and getting indulged with special treats. But more than anything, she’s been focusing on what she does best: resting. This is a chimpanzee that knows how to follow doctor’s orders.