MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A one-of-a-kind surgery made waves by saving a 400-pound dolphin from a respiratory problem.
Sarah, the 29-year old bottlenose dolphin, spent her years helping children with disabilities through a therapy program at Island Dolphin Care in Key Largo.
“She’s just a really special animal,” said veterinary Robert Stevens. “She helps out children that need therapy and now we got a chance to help her.”
After Sarah’s trainers noticed something was wrong with the way the marine mammal was breathing, they searched for help.
She was sedated and taken to a local hospital on Wednesday, where she received a CAT scan using a machine that was designed for humans.
Doctors and vets found that 80 percent of Sarah’s airway was closed off and performed a technique similar to angioplasty.
“First time it’s ever been done on a dolphin, we were very nervous about that,” said Stevens.
A small balloon-like device was put in Sarah’s airway and then inflated to open up the hole again. The surgery was deemed a success when Sarah healed within a few hours.
“We immediately got her back into the water and we immediately saw that she could breathe better,” said Stevens. “She’s quite a trooper.”
Sarah is now back to her old tricks and playing with the kids again.
“These amazing creatures really do connect with the kids in the water and really are therapeutic, ” said a mother, Anna Madsen.