by Sharon Walters

Every year we receive a patient or two that challenges the will to survive, defies all odds or displays what we as mankind call a miracle.

This story is about an eagle named "Opey" . When he arrived, he exhibited the tell tale signs of organophosphate poisoning. After watching many eagles, hawks and other wildlife succumb to man's pesticides, a chill of horror that it may happen again struck everyone in the center.

When rescued, this adult male bald eagle was helpless. He laid face down on his chest with left outstretched behind him, and talons clenched. He was unable to move any part of his body except his head. Terrified by his human captors, the poison moves rapidly. As organophosphate poison continues to do its damage, victims are unable to even blink. Near the end respiration also becomes paralyzed and death follows rapidly, due to man's ignorance.

"Opey" was no exception, and respiration began to fail as soon as he arrived back at the clinic. Antidotes for the poison were given, but too much of the poison was present, and due to a full crop of poisoned food, more was being digested at a rapid rate. After phone calls to several area veterinarians, emergency crop surgery was performed and the poisoned food removed. He was left under gas anesthesia for longer than normal to enable breathing to come easier. As the hours passed, antidotes were continued, with much supportive care. He eventually recovered from surgery, and initially began to show improvement.

Complications set in and the bird began regurgitating fluid that could not be reached in surgery. Some of this fluid was inhaled into the lungs, and the bird developed Ecoli in the lungs, as well as bacterial pneumonia, both of which did not respond to normal drugs. Extensive lab work was done to find an antibiotic that would work. It was found that one of them was a very expensive human drug. During the lab work it was also discovered that "Opey" had aspergillus, a deadly fungal disease to both man and beast. Although he had been on medication to prevent it from happening (at $200.00 a bottle) he still fell prey to this deadly disease. Immediate medication changes were done and he is presently on a more expensive anti-fungal drug. In addition, he just completed a round of antibiotics that were equally as expensive.

This spiritually strong bird has so far defied all odds, and keeps fighting for life. Due to the effects of the poison he has developed nerve and muscle weakness in his feet but continues to improve daily in this area. He will continue to be on anti-fungal drugs for three months, and there is no guarantee he will survive. To date he has made marked improvements but has a long road to recovery. The amazing part of the study is that the levels of poison in his system were higher than any bird dead or alive. Moreover, the levels were so high the bird should have been dead before he was ever admitted.