2022 Year in Review: Dr. Marit Bakken, Veterinary Intern

It’s time to look back on 2022! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2022 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

One of the most challenging but rewarding cases that I worked on this year was Mallard #22-3037. This bird came in as a transfer from Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke after their staff found that the duck had a broken tibiotarsus (one of the long bones in the leg) and needed surgery. Although the fracture was relatively simple and in a good place, since the mallard had been in rehabilitative care for a few days by the time it had been transferred to the WCV, the fragments of the bone had contracted and become more displaced.

When the Mallard arrived, we performed orthopedic surgery right away to stabilize the tibiotarsus and pin it back in place. It was my first time performing surgery on a tibiotarsus and Dr. Karra was a huge help throughout the surgery in helping me repair the leg. Surgery went well; although was more challenging due to the position of the bone fragments, we were successful in placing our IM (intermedullary) pin and our ESFs (external skeletal fixators).

The Mallard started eating and taking medications well after surgery, but we were concerned because this duck still didn’t want to use his leg – these patients should start to use their leg normally a couple days after surgery. We started physical therapy, laser therapy, and targeted pain medications for potential nerve damage but nothing we were trying seemed to be working, even though repeat weekly radiographs showed that the leg was starting to callus and heal nicely.

Once this mallard’s pain was under control he also started becoming extremely feisty – to the point where he pulled out his own external fixators and then eventually his IM pin as well, all by himself, two weeks early! Luckily the bone had healed enough by then that by being cage-rested, he was able to do the rest of the work in healing his tibiotarsus himself and we didn’t have to return to surgery. And most gratifying at all, after all the stress and worry and treatments to get this Mallard to start using his leg, he finally started putting weight on the leg again after all the hardware in the leg was removed. About a month and a half after being in care, he was released!

I learned so much from this Mallard, not only about surgery and managing a case like this after surgery, but also what to do when everything seems to be going wrong. It was so rewarding to see this patient come in unable to walk and through the amazing care the WCV provided, walk away back into his habitat when he was released.

— Dr. Marit Bakken, Veterinary Intern

Check out all of our year-in-review posts!