Zoey Undergoes Cataract Surgery


Today was an exciting day for us. We came
in to perform a bilateral cataract surgery on Zoey, your little sea lion here. It was
exciting for me because Zoey came from the Marine Mammal Center. She was stranded on
the beaches in California in 2012 and we rehabbed her and got her healthy again. During our
exam we noticed that she couldn’t see very well and with examination of her eyes she
had some cataracts that were blocking her vision. So because she had the cataracts we
couldn’t release her and so we put her up for adoption. Then the Blank Park Zoo
took her with the understanding that maybe in the future we would do surgery on her when
she was trained. The lens of the eye is how the eye focuses and we think because of Zoey’s
history of being a rehabilitation animal that she had some sort of nutritional deficiency
that caused that lens instead of being clear to be solid and opaque so she couldn’t see
through it. We committed to do the surgery with a team of experts and that’s why we brought
in Dr. Shawn Johnson, from the Marine Mammal Center, and Dr. James Bailey. He’s an anesthesiologist
because anesthesia in these guys is very tricky. And then Dr. Colitz has developed the technique
to perform these surgeries in sea lions and seals and even whales. About ten years ago
when I started doing these, not much was known at that time about their physiology under
anesthesia. But since that time the over hundred and ten – hundred and fifteen animals
that I’ve done with two different anesthesiologists. Now, James Bailey is our anesthesiologist.
He totally understands their physiology. He understands what they’re going to do under
anesthesia. The choices he makes are to minimize the risk and to have a successful recovery.
There’s a significant amount of difficulties with anesthesia. What we’re trying to do is
improve the technique. And since we’re doing better monitoring, better support, we’re actually
able to keep them anesthetized for a lot longer than we used to. So we’ve improved care so
that we can do more complicated procedures. The surgery itself was really great, as far
as very quick. We got the cataracts out really very quickly and sutured her up with no complications
really that occurred. What I don’t know is if she has never seen what she will see when
she wakes up, because the brain and the eye have to have a conversation and a lot of circuitry
has to happen during development and we don’t know the length of time that takes. She’s
three years old and she’s certainly still young and so potentially she might still be
in that stage of development. So when she starts learning to see again the trainers
are going to have a challenge, but I think they’ll be able to make her a better animal
with what sight she’s going to have.

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