Shepherd Eye Center just loved this news story and wanted to share it with you! Last December, an Asian elephant named Win Thida at the Artis Royal Zoo in Amsterdam showed signs of a red, weeping eye. Zoologists suspected she’d scraped her cornea; the thin layer of tissue on the surface of the eye, by a scratching against a tree branch accidentally.
Zoo officials tried to heal her eye with topical medications but those failed so the zoo contacted a veterinary ophthalmologist, Anne-Marie Verbruggen. Her prescription for the 45-year old elephant was to use a contact lens as a makeshift bandaid over the cornea until it could heal. Verbruggen used her experience with corneal injuries in horses to choose a jumbo sized therapeutic contact lens for Win Thida’s eye.
There was one major problem, the elephant wasn’t trained to accept eye care. It took a month to train the elephant to feel receptive to ophthalmic intervention. Since elephants can’t like down long because their weight impairs their breathing, Dr. Verbruggen climbed a ladder, anesthetized the injured eye, and used a set of forceps to place the contact lens onto the elephant’s eye.
The elephant went 10 days without somehow excising it from its eye on its own; just long enough for her to feel comfortable and healed. Win Thida’s eye damage was ultimately irreparable and left a scar but she is no longer in any pain thanks to the protection of the contact lens.