This One’s For George

There is something very fishy about the story I am going to share with you. As in, you are not going to believe it. Definitely fishy, but at the same time it’s kind of remarkable.

The story is about a goldfish called George. He lives in a tank with 38 other fish. Life for George is pretty good in a manner of speaking. The same four walls every day but he’s fed regularly and his owner loves him.

About a month ago, George began developing a noticeable problem. Unusual white spots appeared on his head, which later developed into a tumor. It began causing him problems. He had difficulty breathing and swimming and was being bullied by the other fish in the tank. He was unable to eat properly and the tumor was affecting his eyesight. Something needed to be done.

His owner happened to work at a local animal hospital and knew what to do. Boy did she know what to do. She took George in for a checkup. A check-up performed not just by any old animal doctor. George was in the hands of a vet who knew the kinds of stuff that can cause sickness in goldfish and how to surgically deal with it. In this particular case surgery was the only option. It was either that or turning George into goldfish and chips.

Here’s where it gets tricky and fraught. This is not your average, run of the mill animal operation. The surgery is delicate, cutting edge and extremely risky for a goldfish. Just getting the fish sedated is a major operation. You have to use three buckets. One filled with water and strong anaesthetic, one filled with water, and a mild dose of anaesthetic and oxygen and the last with just water and oxygen. Phew. Once George was sedated, water then had to be trickled continuously over his gills to keep him asleep and alive.

But George was in good hands. The Vet doing this operation, believe it or not, had experience in performing this kind of surgery. Yes on a fish. Once George was anaesthetized, the delicate 30-minute operation began. The tumor was quite extensive and widespread all the way down George’s skull. The medical team had to closely monitor blood loss because of his small size. A significant loss of blood would be catastrophic. You can’t give a goldfish a transfusion.

After successfully removing the tumor the veterinary team ran into yet another problem. The wound couldn’t be closed with sutures. They wouldn’t take. It called for some improvisation. Tissue glue, the same as they use in surgery on humans, was applied to close up George’s head wound. You’ll be pleased to know the procedure went well and George is in recovery.

The Vet was interviewed about his cutting edge surgery. He said it was fiddly, high risk and well worth the trouble. It was also relatively inexpensive for George’s owner. The operation cost $200. The Vet said he could understand why George’s owner opted to have the operation. Every one of us bonds with animals in different ways and we shouldn’t discriminate or distinguish between species. While the operation cost way more than it would have to simply buy a replacement for George from a pet shop, you can’t put a price on love.

Incidentally, some goldfish can live for 30 years. Maybe George will too. So far his recovery has gone swimmingly and it won’t be long before he’s back in his tank with his 38 other buddies.

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