Planning on writing a proper update soon about the happenings so far this month when Dave & Josie were away at the PASA vet conference in Uganda, our second orphan of the season, baby girl Ayla, and on having started the VMF veggie challenge (day 2 of vegan: so far, so good!), but just wanted to give a quick update on those who were interested in the story of Opal, who I wrote about in a previous post.
Opal did so well after his amputation that he was released back into the troop. He was a bit unsteady on trees and couldn’t run very fast, but I could see him foraging and eating from my cabin every day, and saw him every day to give him his meds.
Thursday I didn’t see him on my morning monitoring round, figured he just got chased off by the high ranking males and was waiting his turn. At 5:15 (late as I was far behind on meds, we usually finish before 4:30), I went to find him for his meds. I did 2 laps of the enclosure, then saw a head lift up out of the low bushes. He was paralyzed again. He was laying in a pile of food thrown out from mainfeed, so he was eating well, but he was dragging his back legs and couldn’t move far. I immediately called Hollie & Chris as Dave & Josie were still in Uganda, and Chris, Dan, and David went in to get him out of the troop and put him into a crush cage.
Once in the crush cage I realized that he again couldn’t feel his feet, but unlike last time now couldn’t feel his tail either. I finally got a hold of Josie who told me to sedate him, check for wounds or spinal problems and put him on an IV drip and an injection of Vit C, which was our chosen treatment last time he was ill. He absolutely would not go to sleep, despite me going over his dose of anesthetic and combining another anesthetic with it. In the end he was slightly sleepier but since he was already paralyzed we just covered his head and carried him to surgery still awake. Unlike all the other times I put an IV in him, this time his limbs were so cold and blood pressure and circulation so bad I could not find a vein to put it in. His gums were paler than they should have been, and he had a fever. He was in terrible shape. I ended up giving him an injection of Vitamin B for nerve function, an antibiotic injection, and a painkiller injection, then put him back in the crush cage and started him on a bunch of vitamins and supplements.
I was there with him until 7 or 8 at night, then went to the cottage to sort out all his medications for the next day, then went back down to check on him and give him another med before bed. I had a terrible sleep that night worrying about him, and Top Left and Frog (2 other very sick monkeys, will write about them later). I was up before 6 to go and check on him.
6am I found him unresponsive, limbs even colder than usual, his fever had dropped to hypothermia, gums pale, and his paralysis had now progressed to his hands as well, so he could only lift his head. His breathing was shallow and I knew he was in critical condition. I spent the morning trying to get a hold of Dave or Josie, then found on they were on the flight home.
Realizing that his paralysis was ascending, I had a hunch that it would soon affect his diaphragm and heart muscles, effectively stopping his heart and lungs, killing him. This slowly became reality, and just after 8am the decision was made between myself, Opal’s keeper, and the assistant manager for me to euthanize him as death was imminent and he was suffering.
Euthanasia is never an easy thing to deal with. At my job at home I often hold pets while they pass to comfort them when owners choose not to be present. This was different. I spent countless hours in October taking care of him, and was so proud of his progress watching him walk past my cabin every day. I’ve become so attached to all these monkeys that they have become in some respect my own pets. To be the one holding the needle at this point… is never something I would choose to do if anyone else could do it, but for Opal it had to be done, and his suffering is over.