4 July 2014
Toothaches and heartaches… It has been such a roller coaster of emotions these past two weeks at BLES. We have gone through every sentiment — fear, confusion, anxiety, guilt, gratitude, pride, relief, joy, sadness, loneliness, emptiness, fulfillment, excitement, contentment… and all because of two little bull elephants. On the 22nd June 2014, Mee Chok under went surgery to remove the shards of infected and broken tusk, that have been causing him huge stress since his tusk broke off at the end of January. Mee Chok has had on going issues with his tusks, ever since he was rescued back in 2010, probably due to being prematurely separated from his mother, resulting in a calcium deficiency. When his tusk snapped off in January, Mee Chok was rushed up to the elephant hospital in Lampang for emergency treatment. He was discharged afar a month and we were told that there was nothing we could do for Mee Chok, a part from offer him pain relief medication and administer daily treatments. This was a devastating prognosis. Mee Chok is just a baby. He will turn 5 on the 7th July and his little life has been one of mistreatment, torture and heartbreak.
I have a great respect for the veterinarians at Lampang and value their opinions. However, I was not convinced that ‘nothing could be done’ and so set about researching tusk extractions and reaching out to international specialists, seeking their professional opinions. Varying verdicts and ideas were forth coming, which was disconcerting at first, particularly when the vets here, were still saying extraction was not an option. I am not a vet or doctor of any sort. But, I am a mother and consider all of the animals in my care, a part of my family. There was no way I was going to allow Mee Chok to continue on in excruciating pain and leaving the tusk to fester, simply was not an option. In April of this year, I was contacted by a man called Cedric Tutt. He introduced himself as a dentistry specialist and said he could help Mee Chok. Even though I had received dozens of messages along these lines, from trusted and well known names around the world, there was something about Cedric’s message that touched me more than any of the others. My gut instinct told me to trust in Cedric and so we began communicating back and forth, brainstorming about possible solutions for Mee Chok. Meanwhile, Mee Chok was having weekly examinations by the vets from Lampang. They all agreed Mee Chok was in pain and that his situation was critical, but still did not agree that extracting the tusk was an option. Anon and I organized a meeting and I put it to the vets that if I could find a dental specialist, who agreed to carry out the entire procedure and follow up with his aftercare, would they support us with the sedation and overall management of Mee Chok during the operation… They eventually agreed and a date was set! Despite being told surgery was complicated and there was a high risk factor involved, I just knew in the depths of my heart that extracting the tusk was what needed to be done. Dr Cedric Tutt had a wealth of knowledge and experience. The Thai vets had known and treated Mee Chok for the past four years and I was convinced if I was able to bring these two key factors together, Mee Chok would be pain free at last. So, on the 22nd June 2014, at 09.45am, Dr Tom and his team sedated Mee Chok and prepared him for surgery. Once he was visibly calm, Dr Cedric Tutt started the procedure. At 10.03am, Dr Tutt dislodged the first shard of tusk. It was an inch wide, two inches long and very sharp. Dr Tutt remained focussed and Dr Tom monitored Mee Chok closely throughout the surgery. We were all tense and openly concerned, but everyone stayed positive and professional. At 10.42am, the final piece of tusk was removed, making a total of nine individual fragments of badly infected tusk. After scraping out all the infected tissue, Dr Tutt and Dr Tom packed the cavity with long acting antibiotics and stitched the flesh together, ensuring the antibiotics stayed in and minimizing the chances of dirt or dust entering the sulcus, thus causing further infection.The surgery, thanks to the efforts of Dr Tom and his team, our BLES mahouts and of course the amazing Dr Cedric Tutt, was a success!
In preparation for Mee Chok’s big day, we had created a treatment and support frame for Mee Chok. We purchased a 3 ton overhead crane, which was connected to two harnesses we had especially made to go under Mee Chok’s belly. The harnesses and crane, were supported by the treatment frame and we built this as a precaution, just incase Mee Chok’s condition failed during the surgery. Should his legs give away, we were ready to support his body weight. The day after surgery, Mee Chok was given a variety of his favourite treats, including nuts, sunflower seeds, mangos, papayas and coconut vines as a well done for being such a brave boy.This really should not be overlooked. The success of the surgery was mostly down to Mee Chok himself and the trust he instilled in the vets and mahouts. Nearly two weeks on since his surgery, Mee Chok is making superb progress! The vets from Lampang visited yesterday and were delighted with him. The recovery enclosure we are building for Mee Chok is almost done, which will mean he has a sterile and spacious area he can relax in, until the wounds in the sulcus are fully healed.
The 26th June is always a powerful day for me. It is one filled with emotions and even though it has been ten jam packed years since my darling Boon Lott died, it still hurts just as it did the day he passed. The death of a loved one is such a hard thing to deal with. Even when you know it is the inevitable and you think you are prepared for when the time comes, it is just so unbelievably painful. I knew then, (as I do now) when I held Boon Lott in my arms, that his passing was for the best. He would no longer be suffering, no longer be in pain, no longer be confused, but… he was gone. Death is so final and maybe that is what we find so difficult to come to terms with. Ten years is a long time. So much has happened and BLES has achieved so many positive things for the elephants of Thailand. I know Boon Lott’s spirit is with me wherever I go. I always feel his energy buzzing around me and then I will see his butterfly…
This past week has been busy… As many of you will know, BLES has only ever had one decent, road worthy truck, which we purchased when we first opened BLES. This truck has been used for absolutely everything and since the beginning of this year, it has started to fall a part. It was spending more time in the repair shop than on the road. The repair bills were high and we were having to run around and borrow cars to keep BLES ticking along. Well, thanks to our devoted, loyal and kindhearted fans on Facebook, BLES was able to raise enough funds to buy TWO new trucks!!! We have purchased a tractor truck for the mahouts and a ten seater minibus, which will be used to transfer guests back and forth to the airport and to transport dogs and cats to the vets etc. These two trucks are an absolute blessing and we are so thankful to each and every person who donated!
This is the magical thing about BLES — we work together with you to make things happen! Thank you so much for sticking with us, through all of the ups and downs.
Trunks of love and thanks to you all,
Katherine and the elephants xx