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  ''Break A Leg''
by Terry Beaudoin

Early one evening I received a call at home from Derek, who was at work at Parrot Island. I could hear the concern in his voice as he started the conversation the way he usually does when calling me at home - "Sorry to bother you at home Terry." Unfortunately, /the next words out of his mouth were "I think Hahns (actually Hahn S. Olo, which is our truly imaginative name for our little Hahn's Macaw who lives primarily at Parrot Island) has hurt his leg." Many of you may know that part of the reason we decided to keep little Hans was Derek's interest in him. "What happened and why do you think he is injured?" I asked. Derek responded, "He is favoring his left leg and does not want to put any weight on it." It seems that Hahns was hanging upside-down and banging away on a toy (as these little maniacs all want to do) on our hanging perch when he suddenly let out a squawk of pain and started thrashing around on the toy. Derek ran over and quickly pulled Hahns away from the toy where he had somehow managed to twist and turn so that he was temporarily caught in some leather hanging on the perch. Now even though he would have never become caught if he would have continued to play and just climbed on about his business - he did what most birds do when they think they might be trapped - he freaked. Many birds will do these types of things and end up OK having suffered the equivalent of an ankle sprain. In this case I elected to get him on some heat and observe him the next day to see if he was recovering and using the leg. Unfortunately, he was only using the leg if absolutely necessary and even then he was not putting his full weight on it. He otherwise seemed fine. In fact, we were worried as he was so rambunctious that I feared he might more seriously harm his leg.

I then contacted St. Francis Animal Hospital and Dr. Tammy Jenkins who was kind enough to squeeze Hans in for an exam. Hans is one of the most easy-going birds I have ever been around which made the exam and x-rays go very smoothly for everyone (including him) involved. Dr. Jenkins' findings were not what I had hoped for. It was more than a simple sprain. He had broken his femur. The bones were slightly out of alignment and a crack was plainly visible on the x-ray. Our two options were to immediately do surgery on the leg or to wait for seven to ten days and check the leg again. The second option was recommended by Dr. Jenkins as in her experience (mine as well) many times broken bones will heal on their own in smaller birds. Possibly avoiding surgery and anesthesia seemed like the best choice at the time. Well, Shari and I had Hans at home for the next ten days. We had to hand feed him three to four times a day as he really began to show a liking for all the attention and coddling he received. He would lay on his back for hours in one of Shari's Longaberger (as close to the correct spelling of that brand name as a guy can come) baskets and quack pitifully at Shari so she would fuss over him. The rest of his time was spent in an incubator, which both kept him warm and to an extent inactive. I say "to an extent" because even in the small incubator he was running around and attempting to climb up the little vent holes on the sides. Hans also had developed an intense fondness for a little fuzzy rope and leather bear toy. He would sleep with his head on it and was always happier with it nearby. Because the bear was in tight quarters with a bird who was eating (and consequently pooping out) lots of formula, Shari had to wash it and thoroughly blow dry it many times. Those of you who stop in the store will notice that we have several of these bears that we always rotate through his cage to try to keep a "fresh" one available for him.

After the ten days of trying to keep the little bugger under control we brought him back to Dr. Jenkins for a comparative x-ray. Hahns was perfect for the x-ray, but his femur was now grossly misaligned. If you take your index fingers and touch them together pointing straight at each other and then move only one of them up about half an inch you have an idea what his femur now looked like. It was definitely time for the more aggressive approach to the problem - surgery. Dr. Jenkins recommended that Dr. Pat Redig do the surgery, as he is a world-recognized specialist in orthopedic surgery on birds. Many of you may know Dr. Redig as one of the two founders of the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota. I volunteered at the Raptor Center in its early days from 1981 through 1986 and was lucky enough to have known and worked with Dr. Redig while there. I was surprised to hear that Dr. Redig was accepting companion birds for surgery, as the Raptor Center only dealt with birds of prey and the occasional hunter (and I use the term loosely as any "hunter" that is so poorly educated about wildlife as to mistake a swan for a duck or goose should not be allowed to carry a gun) shot swan during the time I was involved there. I was very excited to both get Hans' leg taken care of and to take a look at the new (since I had been involved) facilities.

We set up a surgery appointment with a very interested Dr. Redig for the surgery. I brought the little Hahns out to the Raptor Center and was ushered in to Dr. Redig's office. I was somewhat surprised that he remembered who I was as it had been almost 12 years since I had been there and the Center now has hundreds of regular volunteers. We talked about many things including parrots in captivity and the wild as well as the current state of raptor rehabilitation.

We also talked about several shared friends including Jim and Tom Peterson (Sam & Columbo's breeders) who I had learned so much about raising parrots from. Dr. Redig asked many questions about Hahns and the history of his injury as we took him down to the treatment and surgery area. All of the veterinary students, technicians, visiting doctors and volunteers had many questions about the little guy. It was a pleasant reminder of how people with a genuine interest in helping animals (in this case birds) are interested in all birds not just the flashy, high profile ones.

I was very pleased to have the opportunity to observe all of, and assist with some of the process. It was amazing to see a surgery I had only seen done on much larger birds done on the smallest of the mini-macaws. Basically Dr. Redig realigned the femur and then placed a stainless steel pin through its hollow center. The pin extended up through the birds back about one eighth of an inch so that it could later be removed after the bone had healed. This is a great simplification of the surgery - I was amazed at Dr. Redig's ability to perform such a surgery on so small a patient. His only response to my stating that was to shrug and say that it seemed to go very well. After three weeks of trying to keep the little guy reasonably under control and watching the pin and incision site I brought Hans back to Dr. Redig on December 10th. After once again sedating Hans, x-rays were again taken to check alignment and healing. Everything looked great. Dr. Redig then grasped the end of the pin with a sterile surgical pliers turned it slightly and slid it out smoothly. We then removed the gas hood from Hans and I held him upright and monitored his breathing for about five minutes as he woke up. He immediately began his begging quack to be fed and scratched.

After I thanked Dr. Redig and everyone who had helped the doctor approached me about sending several groups of his veterinary students out to Parrot Island as part of their fourth year studies. I said I would be pleased to give them a tour and answer any questions they had about parrots in captivity and their proper care in a store situation. I then returned to Parrot Island where Hahn S. Olo was glad to be home. Having the opportunity to get out to the Raptor Center's facility (which is vastly improved over the second floor corridors of the veterinary anatomy building that housed it when I was involved) reminded me how important and interesting their work is. I would highly recommend taking one of the weekly tours of the facility and donating time or money to their very worthy cause if possible.

While at the raptor center I was approached by several people who asked permission to refer the many calls they receive asking questions about companion birds. Unfortunately even the Raptor Center receives numerous calls from people wanting to do with their unwanted parrots. They were excited to hear that there was now an organization locally (The MAARS Foundation) devoted to the care and placement of these birds. Also it is interesting to note that Dr. Redig is interested in seeing more parrots when time permits. .

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