Sea turtle on verge of death survives

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Leechy wasn’t expected to survive.

The loggerhead sea turtle was found about three months ago on the verge of dying. Her condition was so severe, veterinarian tech and rehab staff didn’t expect her to make it overnight.

She was extremely emaciated, dehydrated and had a red blood count of four. A normal blood count for a sea turtle is 20 to 40. She was also covered with marine leeches, hence her name Leechy.

However, she soon made a “miraculous recovery,” staff at Sea Turtle Inc. on South Padre Island said.

From the beginning, staff gave her a lot of vitamins and supplements that helped her boost her iron levels and helped speed up the development of her blood cells.

“Her recovery went a lot quicker than usual and caught everybody by surprise,” Sea Turtle Inc. intern Javier Parra said.

This week, the nonprofit organization bid a happy farewell to Leechy.

In less than two minutes, Leechy’s instincts kicked in after she was placed on the sand and saw the ocean.

A crowd of about 400 people clapped and cheered for Leechy as she quickly waddled into the Gulf of Mexico and swam with the tide.

“She inspired us with her rapid recovery. Seeing one of our patients getting out there and drawing so many people to the release was very cool,” Parra said.

After months of recovering, staff knew she was ready to continue her journey in the ocean. Eventually, Leechy’s red blood count went back up into the 30s, she began swimming, ate live prey and food every day and was a happy turtle at Sea Turtle Inc.

“It is sad for us to see her leave, but she was our 359th turtle that we’ve released this year, so that’s a good thing,” marketing and public relations manager Sanjuana Zavala said.

“We’re halfway through the year and we’re about to hit 400, so that’s a lot of turtles that we’ve helped out this year. It’s very rewarding and very exciting to share with the public.”

Sea Turtle Inc. welcomes the public to visit and learn about other patients.

“Every turtle has a name and story up at their tank so it’s very exciting to see people come and get attached to a turtle and then get to see its release,” Zavala said.