People

Texas Medical Center specialists help save Houston Zoo orangutan


By Shea Connelly | September 2, 2014

Texas Medical Center offers patients some of the best specialists in the world. Most of those patients are ordinary humans, but when a Houston Zoo orangutan exhibited signs of serious illness, the zoo’s veterinary staff turned to the world-renowned specialists right across the street.

The collaboration began with an alert from zookeepers – Cheyenne, a 42-year-old orangutan, had been lethargic for a few days and was not eating or drinking normally.

“For the first week-and-a-half we treated her how we would treat any other animal,” clinical veterinarian Lauren Howard, DVM, said. When Cheyenne did not respond to that treatment, “we began to realize there was probably something serious going on.”

That’s when Dr. Howard and the Houston Zoo made a call to the Medical Center. Venkata Bandi, M.D., was one of several doctors who answered that call.

Bandi is the director of critical care at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women and associate director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Harris Health System’s Ben Taub Hospital. He had never treated animals before, but his reservations were allayed by primates’ similarities to humans.

“The laboratory values are somewhat similar to the human values and the organ system function [is] the same,” Bandi said. “In fact when I reviewed the ultrasound images, they are very similar to what we see in human ultrasounds.”

After abdominal surgery failed to reveal what was wrong with Cheyenne, additional blood testing discovered several abnormalities: Severe dehydration, muscle and organ damage, and evidence of an infection.

“We had to provide IV hydration, glucose and close monitoring of her electrolytes and renal function, given the acute kidney injury,” Bandi said.

Delivering those fluids to an orangutan came with some unique complications.

“[Orangutans] are very intelligent but we can’t tell them, ‘Don’t pull the catheter out,’” Howard said.

In order to prevent Cheyenne from pulling on the IV, the doctors had to put a cast around her entire foot, along with a six-foot flexible tube to protect the IV line. Zoo staff took turns sitting with Cheyenne overnight to make sure she was comfortable.

Cheyenne remained connected to the IV for several weeks, during which she was monitored by Bandi and the other physicians.

“Dr. Bandi was an amazing resource for us to help keep Cheyenne on that narrow precipice between too much and too little fluid,” Howard said. “Without Dr. Bandi I don’t know if we would have been able to pull her through this.”

Bandi was equally complimentary of the Houston Zoo staff, speaking highly of his first animal care experience.

“What I was most impressed with was the dedication, focus and attention Cheyenne received from her veterinary medical team,” he said. “I was glad that I had the opportunity to interact with a wonderful team of physicians and caregivers for these animals – my hat’s off to their dedication.”

Cheyenne is doing well post-treatment. According to Bandi, her prognosis “should be excellent.” She was reunited with her adopted daughter, Aurora, and her activity level and appetite are back to normal – great news for the zoo staff who have cared for Cheyenne since her 1993 arrival in Houston.

“She has not reproduced and had babies of her own, but she’s a very good mom,” Howard said of Cheyenne. “She’s adopted several orangutan orphan infants and she’s made a massive contribution to orangutan species survival.”

Now thanks to the contributions from Texas Medical Center doctors and zoo staff, Cheyenne can continue caring for younger generations of Houston’s orangutan community.




Social Posts

profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

Myth: #Pain is just physical.Learn the truth from our @uzo_md and read his advice for getting the right treatment: https://t.co/wIXQFSImcE #endcancer

6 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Tens of thousands of volunteers laid wreaths at VA national cemeteries across the U.S. as part of National Wreaths Across America Day Dec. 14. https://t.co/ENkDR3bqxB

9 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

“We need to better understand why #probiotics don’t help and may even be harmful,” says our @carrie_d_mac of the microbiome’s link to the effectiveness of #immunotherapy. #endcancer https://t.co/t6fulbhDcH

9 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

Learn how Dr. Zachary Pallister stays fit in this week's Healthy Habits. https://t.co/GLO29z2W2u #healthy #habits

10 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

VA mom helping women Veterans… inspired by her Navy daughter https://t.co/immmo4yLt9 via #VAntagePoint

11 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

“When I first made eye contact with @MAOnstad, I knew I was where I was supposed to be,” says #uterinecancer survivor Tralisa Woods: https://t.co/iCEfVL0tGj #gyncsm #endcancer

11 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention supports proposed three-digit dialing code for suicide hotline https://t.co/a6hiRA6I7Q via #VAntagePoint

13 hours ago
profile_image

Memorial Hermann

@memorialhermann

@skologinczak We'd like to hear more about your experience. Please send your contact information and Memorial Hermann location to help@memorialhermann.org so we can look into this.

14 hours ago
profile_image

Memorial Hermann

@memorialhermann

@skologinczak We'd like to hear more about your experience. Please send your contact information and Memorial Hermann location to help@memorialhermann.org so we can look into this.

14 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

Wondering what you should be eat to fuel your workout? Registered dietitian, Roberta Anding, breaks it down. https://t.co/BRhtzvO48R #exercise #workouts

14 hours ago
profile_image

Houston Methodist

@MethodistHosp

@Nanomed_hmri Appreciate the share.

15 hours ago
profile_image

Houston Methodist

@MethodistHosp

@RobertaS_CIO @InnoMapHou @nataliejharms Appreciate the shout-out.

15 hours ago
profile_image

Houston Methodist

@MethodistHosp

@lifecourseUofT Thanks for the shout-out.

15 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

Dr. Atif Iqbal with @BCM_Surgery discusses the human papillomavirus virus and the rise of anal cancer. https://t.co/GhsLd2flaJ #HPV

16 hours ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

RT @UHCougars: .@UHouston students, don't forget to claim your ticket!Don't miss out on a 👔𝘽𝙇𝙐𝙀 𝙎𝙃𝙄𝙍𝙏 𝙍𝙀𝘿 𝙏𝙄𝙀 𝙏-𝙎𝙃𝙄𝙍𝙏!! 🤯🎟️| https://…

1 day ago