Leeches are not everyone’s cup of tea but they are serving a very important purpose here at The Turtle Hospital; Saving flippers! On December 14th the Coast Guard helped us rescue a Loggerhead sea turtle they named Jovanavich. Jovanavich’s right front flipper was severely entangled which created a deep laceration and caused the flipper to swell. We are hoping to save the flipper but we need a little help. This is where the leeches come in, leeches have been used in medicine since ancient times.
Leech therapy is extremely beneficial in the healing process due to enzymes found in leech saliva, which are known to reduce pain, inflammation and dissolving blood clots. Leeches secrete peptides and proteins, these secretions are also known as anticoagulants. This keeps blood flowing to wounds to help them heal. This improves circulation and prevents tissue death.
Enzymes found in leech saliva also dilate vessels and work together with other enzymes to flush out toxins and promote healthy circulation to accelerate the healing process, as well as containing antibacterial enzymes that help prevent and eliminate the production of bacteria. Leech therapy diminishes inflammation, swelling and pain of an injured area, leading to an accelerated normal function. During therapy, leeches also inject an anesthetic enzyme which deadens the pain, as well as an antibacterial enzyme, which destroys the bacteria present, preventing further infection of the site, all of which work together to speed up the healing process.
Jovanavich has shown great improvement. Although the flipper is still very swollen, he is using it and seems to be feeling better. Our goal is to save this flipper, but even if the flipper were to be amputated, Jovanavich would still be able to be released. Let’s hope that’s with 4 flipper though, not three. Go leeches go!