Saturday, January 22, 2011

Eddy catches a standing 8 count and wakes up in Disneyland.

It's not how hard a punch you can take that counts, it's how hard punch you can take and get back up.
R. Balboa

I think Mr. Balboa would've liked our Eddy, he is one tough, wrinkled,  little SOB.  He and we have been on a roller coaster of emotion and travel since Sunday mid-day.  This post will be lengthy and in parts very technical,  it is  informative in relating the difficulty in keeping a very young elephant alive and the extraordinary measures being taking by an increasingly  large team to make sure he does just that, stay alive.  
In spite of our (Betsy, Lionel, Kevin and myself) best efforts Eddy crashed again on Sunday.  Omaruru's private Veterinarian Dr. Otto Zapke, came to Epako Sunday afternoon, fully kitted out, to begin another round of emergency care. However, Dr Otto took just a few seconds to inspect Eddy turn to me and say quite strongly, we need to move Eddy and we need to it now or he's going to die.

Within minutes of Otto's arrival my Toyota Double cab was converted to an impromptu ambulance, Otto driving, me in the back with Eddy doing my best to keep him calm and at the same time not let him stomp the @#$% out me, sick or not, small or not he is very strong and fully capable of dropping my old butt to the canvas. 
We had a couple of choices of where to take Eddy and in the end mostly for security/control reasons opted for my garden.  On our way in from Epako, Otto phoned Johann du Plessis, and asked him to assemble the rudiments of an emergency enclosure. It was all hands on deck and it was up and ready in minutes.

Otto quickly and expertly got a new IV line in Eddy's ear and sutured it in place so it wouldn't get pulled out again and started pumping in the fluids. I more or less spent the next 36 hours with Eddy changing IV bags and feeding him orally. I had great help from Sanjke and Martin who work for me at my house.  It was an exhausting vigil.

Otto made it clear Eddy's stay at my house in Omaruru was very temporary and that he needed to move onward to the care of Dr. Ulf Tubessing.  Who according to Otto is one of the best Veterinarians in Southern Africa.

Tuesday morning Eddy was  stable enough to move to Dr. Ulf's farm outside Windhoek, we rode in the back of a Mercedes Sprinter, entirely less dangerous than the back of my double cab (for both of us).  We left Omaruru at about 9AM and arrived at Ulf's farm just after 11. I cannot say enough about the driving skills of Ms. Hillke Waldschmidt. She was a star.

Once we arrived Ulf climbed in with all the tools modern veterinary medicine can muster. Vitamins, hopped up IV, antibiotics, + oral fluids and 24 hour care.  I have known since the beginning that my day to day caretaking of Eddy would have to end. My main responsibility since Roberto, Paul and Guy had to leave  was to be this little guys advocate and do absolutely everything to insure he will survive to charm the pants off large gray girly elephants. So once Eddy was in Dr. Ulf's care we began to introduce a very selective, very skilled, sympathetic group of dedicated caregivers.  Ulf has a game capture business and his best guys from that operation were literally arguing over who would get to sit with Eddy for 8 hours at a whack, talk to him, touch him and make sure he got plenty of food.

Ulf's farm  Ongos is an amazing place just 20 minutes from Windhoek you step out of the urban into the wild. He has one of the rarest of all commodities in Namibia, a year round river, right below his house. At the edge of the Khomas Hochland it is a visually astounding farm, thus the Disneyland reference....

The speed with which Eddy recovered yet again from the edge of the abyss is incredible and leaves zero doubt as to his will to survive.  So much so, that by Thursday morning Ulf deemed Eddy well enough to come off the drip and go for a walk. Along the way Eddy explored his environment, a really good sign and made a new friend.  Yet again the little @#$% made me blubber.  Eddy meets Sampson the horse cat.

Ulf made it clear I had to leave and I understood the importance of doing so, I left my clothes that I had not changed since Sunday with Eddy's new caregivers to put in their laps when they feed him. Packed my bags and got ready to leave.  Overnight the rains had really come and the river on Ulf's farm had gone from running to running very high. We managed to get across, I got to my bus with about 10 minutes to spare and was on my way home to restart my life, happy that Eddy was on his way to a full recovery. 

But, not long after I got home, I received a call from Ulf with bad news, Eddy had crashed again. Ulf stayed with him all night nursing him with all his skill. As he did again last night.
In the 24 hours since, I have learned yet more about Eddy's situation. The short version is this. It goes all the way back to the first bottle of milk we were told to feed him. There is a mucous lining in Eddy's digestive track that is essential to his ability to metabolize his food, without it he can't metabolize anything that he takes orally.  Eddy can't get  stronger and reestablish his gut function without getting nutrients, without a functioning gut he can't get the nutrients, you don't need to be a Vet to see where this is going. 

Ulf and Otto spent a bunch of airtime today calling around Southern Africa looking for a 30 or 40cm central line to put deep  into Eddy so he can be feed nutrients by IV in the hopes he gets strong enough  to start his gut functioning again.
I'm going to take the liberty of including a e-mail from Ulf to other Southern African Veterinary Specialists that outlines the treatment problems and efforts being taken, to give you all some idea of the complexity of this.

Ulf wrote:.......Fortunately I am pretty up to date with critical care medicine as well as wildlife medicine/rehab. Eddy as a say 3 month old Elephant is a midget way underweight and not nearly getting in enough calories on a daily basis to maintain body functions, never mind growing and thriving. He is starving in front of our eyes and if that is not changed he has no chance – clinically it looks like he has given up but nobody can hang in there with hypoglycaemia, hypokalaemia and a hugely negative caloric balance! The fact that he has a diet induced osmotic diarrhoea does not help. He is currently getting the S 26 formula with added pancreatic enzymes (to aid in the lipid maldigestion he has) and Omeprazole (gastric ulceration) as well as supplemental potassium (which helped him a lot as far as muscle tone is concerned!!). I currently also have him on total parenteral nutrition (lipids, amino acids, glucose IV) which really made a big difference and turned him around in the past few hours. After being up and about during the day and still drinking 3,3 l of milk in the afternoon he was down and out, near zero muscle tone, not drinking and really close to death during the night. I spent the entire night with him gradually building him up again. I spent a lot of time speaking to various SA vets who have clinical (not just the orphanage care) experience and work closely with various rehab organisations. I also spoke to Karen Trendler whom I believe to be an excellent rehabilitator with really great clinical knowledge as well (as a vet nurse) and Rachel Murton (Zambian Elephant Orphanage). From all their advise and experience (together with info from the Knysna guys and Daphne (had stuff from her for a while) I now compiled a management and treatment plan which I honestly believe is optimal for Eddy right now.



  1. Chris, stay strong, it looks like you've got the best team you could ask for working on this. If that photo of him with the kitty isn't enough to make people jump at the opportunity to help, I don't know what is. Please continue to keep us updated.

  2. Hi Chris, I've been following along and I really hope Eddy gets better. I donated and I wanted to say that it would be great if you included a link directly to the Harnas site (since that is where the PayPal button is). It would make it easier for people to donate.

    I just put up an announcement on my Facebook pg and Twitter. Hopefully it help. Good luck.

  3. Thank you for your comments Ashley, I'm a bit confused by your links suggestions. there are functioning links to both Harnas and their PayPal site in the next to last paragraph in bright red.....


  4. I am so sorry to hear of the update as of this morning. You are the epitome of human compassion for our animal kingdom. All you did was directed from the heart, you are a very giving person. Unfortunately nature would not have that baby to live and ultimately it is natures call.