Sunday, June 4, 2023

Human medicine saves a giraffe in San Diego

Over the past three decades, Ara Mirzian has put braces on everyone from Paralympians to children with scoliosis. But Mitsuni was a patient like no other: a newborn giraffe.

The calf was born on February 1 at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, north of San Diego, with its front limb bent backward. Park staff feared that they could die if the problem was not corrected immediately, as it could prevent them from eating and walking in the dwelling.

But he had no experience in putting a brace on a giraffe’s baby.

The situation was particularly difficult, as she was a 178-centimeter-tall (5-foot-10-inch) newborn who was growing every day.

So they went to the orthotics specialists at Hangar Clinic, where Mirjian saw his first animal patient.

“When I found out it was very real,” Mirjian told The Associated Press this week during a visit to meet Mitsuni, who was walking nonchalantly with the other giraffes. “Of course, all I did was online and study giraffes 24 hours a day until I got here.”

Increasingly, zoos are turning to medical professionals who treat people to find solutions for sick animals.

Cooperation in the field of prosthetics and orthotics is particularly useful. Earlier this year, Florida-based Zootampa teamed up with experts in the field to replace the beak of a cancer-stricken hornbill with a 3D-printed prosthetic.

And in 2006, a team at a Florida hangar created a prosthetic for a dolphin that had lost its tail after being caught in the ropes of a crab’s net. His story inspired the 2011 film “Dolphin Tale”.

But it was a definite learning curve for everyone, including Matt Kinney, a senior veterinarian at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Coalition in charge of the Mitsuni case.

“Usually we put on casts and bandages etc. But something broader, such as this orthosis that was provided to them, is something for which we really had to turn to our human (medical) colleagues,” Kinney said.

Mitsuni suffered from hyperextension of the carpals, the bones of the wrist joint in the giraffe’s forelimbs, more similar to the arms.

Compensating for the excess, the second forearm also began to hyperextend.

His rear joints were also weak, but were able to heal with special hoof expanders. And since she weighed more than 120 pounds at birth, the abnormality was already taking its toll on her joints and bones.

When custom braces were being manufactured, Kinney first bought post-surgery knee braces at Target that she cut and reattached, but they kept slipping. Later, Mitsuni donated medical-grade knee pads for humans, modified for his long legs. But he broke one.

For custom-made braces to work, they must have some range of motion but be durable, so Hanger worked with a company that makes horse braces.

Using molds from the giraffe’s feet, it took eight days to make graphite orthoses adorned with the animal’s distinctive speckled pattern to match its fur.

“We pictured the giraffe just to make it fun,” Mirjian said. “We do this with kids all the time. They can choose superheroes or their favorite team and we print it on gadgets. So why not do it with giraffes?

In the end, Mitsuni only needed an orthosis. The other leg healed itself with a medical grade orthosis.

After 10 days in the custom brace, the problem was fixed.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
Nation World News is the fastest emerging news website covering all the latest news, world’s top stories, science news entertainment sports cricket’s latest discoveries, new technology gadgets, politics news, and more.
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