Nate’s Notes #9: A Near Death Experience

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I know it is not good to start off with an apology but I really have a good excuse for not writing my log for such a long time. As chief engineer aboard Idyll Time (IT), my duties are many. Mostly these involve undoing things with my beak. After putting our boat in storage for the winter, Admiral Mom (AM) and Captain Dad (CD) took us on a long vacation to Florida in our new RV.

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We towed our small boat, Idyll Out, behind the RV and spent many enjoyable hours exploring the Florida Keys and St. John’s River. I really like this RV thing but Homer and I didn’t get to crew on the small boat. AM said there was no place to store our cages in the little boat and besides we really don’t swim well and did not want to become gator bait. Homer and I were happy just hanging out on the top bunk of the Minnie Winnie. I did manage to remove the fabric of the top bunk cushion one day. CD was neither impressed nor pleased with this. We did get into the habit of coming out of our cages twice a day, once in the early morning and again for a longer time at sunset for extra drinks and snacks. Carrabelle Florida was O.K. but we were all glad to get back to home in Tennessee. AM was very glad to not be towing the boat anymore. She gets too nervous, especially on the interstate highways.

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She kept trying to get CD to take the side and back roads but finally we had to take some big roads if we wanted to get home this spring.

With the advent of the two-a-day out of cage experiences and increased snacks, I put on a few grams this winter according to Dr. Thigpen, our family bird veterinarian. CD has always called me “Fat Boy” but I thought he was only joking.

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I’m just big boned not really overweight you know. Besides, I didn’t really beg for those extra snacks, they just gave them to us to keep us quiet. CD pointed out the flaw in this theory in that Homer is still skinny while only I have gained weight. Homer eats twice as much as me but weighs 50% less. How does he do it at his age (53 years old)? I don’t know, but he must have a naturally higher metabolism.

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My problems started about two weeks ago when Homer and I went to the doctor for our semi-annual visit for trimming our beaks, wings, and nails. This always turns into something of a wrestling match, especially with Homer and the vet. He really hates this. I have to admit it’s not my favorite activity either. I have been known to bite a stray finger or two when the vet isn’t paying attention. On our last visit, I put up a little struggle but nothing extraordinary. Mostly it is for show and to not give Homer the chance to call me a weenie. He says one weenie, Sebastian, in the house is enough, so I try to act as bad as Homer while at the vet.

Well, when we got home, my hip started to hurt and I didn’t feel like eating my evening meal. By the next morning I didn’t feel like sitting on my perch and spent a lot of the day on the bottom of my cage. I also didn’t feel like drinking anything. Little did I realize how dehydrated birds can get. I also didn’t realize that birds, especially fat ones like me, can develop Fatty Liver Disease if we don’t eat for a few days. Mom and Dad decided that I needed to go back and visit Dr. Thigpen. I was in a lot of pain with my leg and could not put any weight on it. Since I had not had any food or water for two days, I was really dehydrated and my liver was not working well. I overheard Dr. T. tell AM and CD that I needed to be tube fed. As the name implies, a metal tube was soon inserted down my throat, unwillingly I might add, and into my crop. Dr. T was very careful to make sure the tube didn’t go down the wrong path and into the lungs. It would not have been good to fill my lungs with peanut butter, oatmeal, and strained carrots. Once back home, CD had to continue tube feeding me every three hours. This was really stressful for Mom, Dad, and me. It felt like a garden hose was being jammed down my throat. The stress, dehydration, hurt leg, and lack of sleep started to rapidly catch up to me. I continued to get worse and worse. Mom and Dad let me sleep on their bed with them all night because they knew I was really sick.

I was hurting so bad the next morning that Mom and Dad drove me for two hours to the University of Tenn. Vet School in Knoxville. They have a special vet school for exotic animals and they know a lot about us birds. A very nice lady vet, Dr. Evans, and a 4th year student, Danielle, put me in a special cage with oxygen. I was so sick that I couldn’t even bite them. It was noisy, hot, and they didn’t have a perch for me. They kept trying to get me to eat all sorts of healthy stuff out of some scary big black bowls. I didn’t cooperate, so they too continued the tube feeding. They called it some fancy word-Gavage (I think it is French for bird torture feeding). They would also stick me with a needle each day and give me something called fluids since I wasn’t drinking. I also had x-rays and an ultra sound done. They did say it was good that there were no broken bones. I kept telling them that my leg hurt but they never did find out what was wrong with it. The pain medicine they were giving me helped that a lot.

Mom and Dad came to visit me several times. I really liked seeing them. Mom told me that Homer missed me a lot. He was being very quiet and cooperative at home- very unusual for him to say the least. AM was also very concerned about me. After all, she and I have been together for 33 years, 11 years longer than CD has been around. CD said it was nice to have the house quiet, clean and neat, and Homer so well behaved. He said he didn’t miss me, but Homer told me he was worried also.

Well, for over a week Dr. Evans and Danielle continued their treatments, pain medicine, and my gavage feedings. I did start feeling a little better. They also gave me something for my gut bacteria, whatever that it. CD said it is bugs inside me that help me digest my food and lets my liver recover. I don’t know about that but I did like the flavor of the stuff and ate it off of Dr. Evans fingers. She also spent some time with me scratching the back of my neck. That felt really good. I have never let anyone other than Mom scratch my head before but I felt really bad and enjoyed the attention.

After a week, another team took over my case. Dr. Jones and Leslie were now seeing me. Dr. Jones is an assistant professor at UT and an accomplished falconer. Leslie, like Danielle, is a fourth year vet student and will soon be a doctor. They noticed that I was starting to improve and said it would be O.K. for Homer to come visit me in the hospital. Boy, it was good to see him. We just sat together on my travel perch for 2 hours. AM was also very glad to see me and said I was improving but I needed to start eating on my own. She brought all my favorite foods with her- mac & cheese, pizza, sesame sticks, and potato chips- you know all the stuff I love but shouldn’t have. I was so happy I ate just a little for Mom. The visit with Homer made me feel much better and after he left I started eating some on my own. It is much better than having Dr. Jones come at me with that gavage tube. After two weeks, I finally improved enough and they let me go home. My leg is still sore but it feels much better being back home. I lost almost 100 grams. That’s a lot when you only weigh 650 grams. I’m slowly getting back into my old routine and habits. In fact, Homer and I have enjoyed ourselves immensely yesterday just yelling at the top of our lungs.
I even took a bath in my water bowl and soaked the floor.

CD says I have to stay here for two more weeks before I can travel up to Idyll Time. AM, Homer, and I are going to stay here while CD and Sebastian go up to Michigan and put IT in the water.

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After they get the boat all ready for our summer cruising, they will come get us. I should be well by then. I’ll be glad to get back aboard Idyll Time and away from land. That way CD can’t take me on any long car trips to the vet. I don’t want to go back to that place ever again. Mom did tell me that they saved my life so maybe it wasn’t all bad.

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Don’t tell anyone, but I really did miss Mom, Dad, and even Homer (Sebastian, never).

Later,
Nate The Great

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