Staff at the Oklahoma City Zoo and OSU Center for Veterinary Health Sciences spoke out about the surgery they performed on a six-month-old giraffe. When it became clear the procedure would not be a success, the team made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize Kyah.
Wednesday, the giraffes are out feeding at the Oklahoma City Zoo exhibit, but visitors noticed Kyah's absence. Ellie, an adult giraffe that gave birth to Kyah on Sept. 26, 2013 was also aware, according to the zoo.
"Certainly Ellie is aware that Kyah is no longer here. She has kind of been looking for her a little bit," said Jennifer D'Agostino, Director of Veterinary Services.
Kyah was born with a heart defect that made it nearly impossible for her to eat solid food.
"The vessel was only about this big and it was causing all of the problems and it was definitely constricting her esophagus," said D'Agostino.
D'Agostino and her team at the zoo successfully transported Kyah to OSU's Center for Veterinary Health Sciences. The trip went well, the anesthesia went well, and the initial phases of the operation went well.
According to the team, this was a first-of-its-kind surgery on a giraffe. There were several difficulties with gaining access to Kyah's heart and when Veterinary Surgeon Mark Rochat finally did get to the blood vessel that was constricting her esophagus, he said things went downhill.
"The tissue was not healthy or the type of tissue that holds sutures well and that ultimately became the challenge," explained Rochat.
The team made the call to end the surgery after exhausting their efforts. Even though Kyah was humanely euthanized, the team believes they made the right call.
"She would have ultimately starved to death if this procedure wouldn't have happened or she had not been euthanized," said D'Agostino. "Everybody is in agreement that we did everything possible in our power that we could have possible done."
"It's sad and extremely unfortunate how it turned out, but when you look at the bigger picture and the absolute zero chance of survival otherwise, it's one of those things you'd do it again tomorrow," added Rochat.
Even though the team who worked with Kyah every day was heartbroken by the news, the circle of life was in action Wednesday. Bogy and Ellie were breeding and the staff hopes to have another giraffe in 15 months or so.
The team who worked on Kyah plans to publish their findings since they have not been able to find any other records on the same situation as Kyah's.