Sunday, 28 March 2010

I'm in ICU!

Yes, it's been an appallingly long time since I've written a blog post. I've been a bit koala-d out from doing Gum Tips (the quarterly newsletter, which you can download here), maintaining the Hospital's facebook page, and planning the new architecture for the Hospital computers.

But today I was just plain old koalawrangler on the Sunday morning shift. It was a beautiful Spring day, a bit muggy but sunny and with no sign of rain.

I read the whiteboard on the way in and saw that Crescent Head Jimmy (cover boy of our March Gum Tips) was now sharing the joey yard with Roto Mikki. Barb, who was Jimmy's home-carer, and whose other home-care juvenile, Bea, is now a permanent resident, must be suffering empty-nest syndrome. I could see her over in yard 9 cleaning up in Bea's yard.

Emma (the 'international' vollie) was showering herself in aeroguard - apparently she'd picked 16 ticks off herself last week and was put on antibiotics. She was taking no chances this week. She and Kerrie took yard 10, Alexi and Alison were in the aviaries with Biggy and Littly, and Brooke and the usual Emma were in the front yards with Golfer and Kaylee.

I was left with the four koalas in ICU. First off, I fed Waniora Jonah, a very handsome young adult koala with wet bottom. Peter wanted me to distract him with food while he gave him his jab.

As I was feeding him, he found myself marvelling at how big his nose seemed. He liked his formula - even if about a quarter of it dribbled onto his fur and I had to wipe it off afterwards with a wet flannel.

I was glad to see that Emerald Downs Barbara was still there. She was the koala with bilateral corneal ulcers whose unit I had serviced a few weeks ago. She was almost completely blind in both eyes, and although koalas rely more on smell than sight for seeking food, it doesn't help for avoiding dogs and cars. I was a bit worried that she might be euthanased the following week, but here she was!

Barbara's left eye had been completely removed and apparently some eyesight remained in her right eye, although it still looked cloudy.

She wandered down gunyah to the bottom rung and finally joined me on the floor. I lured her with a gum sprig back onto the gunyah, still at the bottom. She seemed happy to stay there, so I swept and mopped around her as she sniffed the air. When Chris returned with the leaf, I put a pot beside her and one above so she could make up her own mind. See video of Barb below:

Oxley Carl was a elderly koala who had come in quite debilitated. He made a groan as he moved around the gunyah, possibly due to being backed up in the digestive department.

Barb (human not koala) said his teeth were ground back, which is often how older koalas end up. It means they have trouble getting adequate nutrition in the wild because their teeth can't keep up with the amount of leaf they need to process each day to survive. Barb had put aside some tips for Carl that she thought he might like.

Carl was doddery just like a little old man. I tried to feed him some formula but he really wasn't interested. He just pulled his head back and away from me like I had simply moved too far into his 'personal space'. He nearly lost balance and grabbed the gunyah post to steady himself. So I didn't try to force him.

The last koala in ICU was one I knew something about. Two weeks earlier had had driven past a Koala Hospital crew erecting a koala trap around a tree in Hamlyn Drive, just around the corner from where I live.

The story was a little unclear, the local utility workers claimed to have seen an injured koala in the tree and nearby residents saw blood on the asphalt. The koala might have taken a tumble (which is unusual in well koalas). The koala was high up in the tree and so Peter and crew were setting up a trap consisting of corflute signs and a cage with some leaf in it. I got out of my car and asked, somewhat unhelpfully, if they needed a big piece of cheese for the trap.

I checked the trap myself a few times that day, but the koala was still sky-high. Then, when I was in ICU, there he was: Hamlyn Daniel.

He had certainly sustained some nasty injuries to his face. But he'd had more than just a little 'bark' off (as they say in the biz). His right nostril look like it had been split open. Instead of falling from his tree, it was now thought he might have been hit by a car and returned to his tree to 'lick his wound's, as it were. Now, he was happily eating away at his leaf, but it was the noisiest chewing I had ever heard - no doubt because his poor lip and nose were gaping a bit.

Daniel had already had some of his wounds sewn up and was scheduled to get his nose stitched up properly after Easter (they were waiting for it to dry out a bit first).

Otherwise, he looked okay, and should be much better in a few weeks after his surgery. I hope I'll be seeing him back around the trees in Hamlyn Drive in no time!

Click here to view more of today's Koala Hospital snaps.