Tex. zoo jaguar undergoes radical mastectomy
By GARY STALLARD
The Lufkin Daily News
Friday, June 01, 2007
Dr. Rick Martin has treated plenty of patients in his more than 20 years as a physician. As a member of the Woodland Heights Wound Healing Center, he can truthfully say he’s probably seen a little of everything when it comes to medical cases.
But according to Martin, he’s never quite had a patient like the one he encountered on Friday.
For one thing, this lady didn’t want him touching her.
Martin and fellow Woodland Heights member Cindy Saldana, along with veterinary student assistant Kara Pittman from Texas A&M, were on hand at the Ellen Trout Zoo to assist in the treatment of Yoxhilan, a 17-year-old jaguar recently diagnosed by staff veterinarian Dr. Michael Nance as having tumors in her mammary system. In humans, that’s breast cancer.
Nance performed the surgery — a bilateral radical mastectomy — very well, according to Martin. However, there existed certain situations not conducive to quick healing in an animal. A human being knows to change dressings on wounds every day, and to apply the appropriate medications.
Naturally, Yoxhilan wouldn’t know this. Nor is she inclined to let someone else perform those tasks, a factor Martin said made her entirely different from the other patients with whom he typically works.
“This is a being that really doesn’t want you touching her,” Martin said. “You have to respect that; it’s her right. We just tried to adapt to her needs.”
Nance explained that after Yoxhilan’s surgery, there remained a large, open wound that was impossible to close in a normal fashion.
“Any time you remove that much tissue, you experience loss of blood supply and other problems, so we had a gigantic wound that is now down to almost nothing,” Nance said. “It’s healing very well now, but we felt that a little more professional touch would serve Yoxhilan very well. These guys at Woodland Heights treat a lot of wounds, difficult healing wounds in human patients. We thought their expertise would do her very well in the final stages of the healing process.”
Martin said he applied a combination of growth stimulators and collagen on Yoxhilan’s wound in an effort to speed up the healing process.
“There are a lot of normal treatments and routines you can’t do in this situation, just because it’s a wild animal,” Martin explained. “She can’t change her dressing every day, or any of the other things that people would do in this case. Attempting to quicken the healing process is the best approach for her at this stage.”
Martin and Nance both agree that the prognosis for Yoxhilan is good, despite her age. And while such careful treatments are old hat for Nance, treating the big cat was a new experience for Martin.
“I’ve been in Lufkin for 24 years, and I was in family practice for 22. This is my first jaguar,” Martin said. “But I love animals, and I love that we have such a wonderful zoo out here. Dr. Nance had a very difficult case here, and he did a magnificent job working to save this animal.”
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