People doctors lend a hand to ailing gorilla
September 25, 2009
COLORADO SPRINGS – An all-volunteer medical team took a break from treating humans to perform lifesaving surgery on a 450-pound gorilla at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs.
Rafiki, a 25-year-old silverback lowland gorilla, is recovering from an operation to remove an infection from a bone behind his right ear.
Zoo spokesman Sean Anglum says the infection could have killed Rafiki if it spread to his brain.
Colorado Springs ear surgeon Dr. Joseph Hegarty performed the operation at the zoo on Sept. 5, assisted by three nurses and using a microscope loaned by Memorial Hospital.
The zoo sought help when Rafiki stopped eating and began holding his head.
Denver-based Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers loaned a mobile CT unit to scan Rafiki’s brain. A veterinarian and two doctors volunteered to read the scans.
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Rafiki’s appetite is returning and his prognosis looks good, although he’s still on antibiotics, Anglum said.