Today, nearly a thousand onlookers gathered along the shore in Juno Beach, Florida, craning for a peek of single sea turtle wading out to sea -- using words like 'miracle' to describe the animal's release. Last year, the turtle was discovered on a sandbar clinging to life after its body was split by the propellers of boats. It might have seemed futile to try and save the animal, but a team of veterinarians did anyways -- and now, after a hard-fought recovery, the sea turtle is heading home with a patched shell and a new chance at life.Since the endangered green turtle, known as Andre, was rescued some 14 months ago and started on the long road to recovery, he's become a celebrity of sorts in Florida for his resilience in the face of some horrific injuries. Veterinarians believe that Andre's shell had been sliced open from the propeller blades of two boats while he swam near the surface of the ocean. From the accident, Andre suffered from a shattered shell, a collapsed lung, and a nasty infection.
According to the Palm Beach Post, by the time the turtle was rescued by staffers from the Loggerhead Marinelife Center, it seemed as though it might be too late to save him:
Andre's injuries were so serious, Bethlyn McCloskey, a Loggerhead volunteer, didn't think he was going to make it.
"I thought we were wasting our time," McCloskey said. "But this staff performs miracles."
Ranly said Loggerhead used a "wound vacuum" to draw out all infectious fluids. The center also used grafting material to repair Andre's spinal chord, which was exposed."
Over the following months, Andre underwent a series of 'groundbreaking' surgeries to help him recover. An orthodontist was called in to help patch the hole in Andre's shell. "I'm not aware of this ever being done on a turtle before," Dr. Alberto Vargas told the Post following the surgery last year. "We changed the shape of his shell, just like we change the shape of a patient's jaw."
But now, after 14 months of recovery, the has finally come to release Andre back into the sea.
"It's sad to see him go because he'd become so much of our daily lives," Loggerhead coordinator Melissa Ranly said after Andre slipped beneath the waves, resuming his interrupted life. "But this is what we've been working toward. He never looked like he was going to give up."