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Sea Turtle Undergoes Michael Jackson Treatment, Sleeps In Hyperbaric Chamber

Michael Jackson Kahuna Turtle Hyperbaric Chamber

First Posted: 06/06/11 04:01 PM ET Updated: 11/15/11 05:26 AM ET

When Michael Jackson started sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber, it was just another moment in his eccentric life.

When Kahuna, a female sea turtle, started doing the same thing, it was to help her recover from serious flipper injuries.

Last August, Kahuna was found near Hutchinson Island in South Florida with nearly 60 percent of her front left flipper missing and several deep lacerations on her right front flipper, WPTV.com reports.

Veterinarians at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, Florida, have spent the last nine months trying to rehabilitate her using antibiotics, vitamins and surgery.

However, the Kahuna's future is still uncertain because osteomyelitis, a type of unresolved bone infection, is present in both front flippers, causing the turtle to become unstable without antibiotics.

So now the Center is trying something new in hopes of getting Kahuna out of her metaphorical shell and back in the game: hyperbaric oxygen therapy, a treatment in which a patient, whether human or, in this case, turtle, breathes 100 percent oxygen intermittently while inside a pressurized treatment chamber.

Although the science behind the success of hyperbaric therapy is not widely understood, it has been used to treat bone infections in humans and other animals, such as horses.

But not turtles. At least, not until now.

Veterinarian Meg Miller believes there's no reason the therapy can't work on Kahuna as well as humans.

"I think it's a great idea. We've been talking about trying it for six months," Miller said. "It took this long to get it in the works, but there are a lot of turtles out there that can't be released."

Because the treatment is untried on turtles, some adaptations had to be made. Kahuna is spending much of the next two weeks at the Equine Hyperbaric Center of South Florida at Reid and Associates, which has a chamber specifically designed for horses.

According to Loggerhead Marinelife Center spokeswoman Brittany Miller, Kahuna goes to the equine center three times a week, which requires employees to lift the 183-pound sea turtle into a box and drive her to the chamber about 45 minutes away.

"Veterinarians are monitoring her progress to adjust the treatments accordingly," Miller told AOL Weird News. "Based on diagnostics, the treatments could continue for any length of time. It's hard to say because this is experimental with sea turtles."

"There is no standard sea turtle protocol published for hyperbaric oxygen treatments," Miller explained. "Our treatment plan is loosely based on the hyperbaric oxygen treatments that have successfully worked on other animal species."

The first treatment began on June 3 and, though results are preliminary, Kahuna seems to be taking to it swimmingly, according to hospital coordinator Melissa Ranly.

"She seems to be responding really well, and her comfort level has gotten a lot better, and we're really hoping that this will achieve the results we're looking for," Ranly said.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy isn't the only offbeat treatment the Loggerhead Marinelife Center is trying in its efforts to help the area's sea turtles.

Earlier this year, the center had a orthodontist repair the massive hole in the shell of a sea turtle named "Andre," who is expected to be released later this summer.

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