Day 18 and today we worked with Themba without catching sight of Thandi. We spent a long time with him assessing if there was any way we could avoid another anaesthetic. He appeared a little more lethargic to me and his leg is still giving him a lot of discomfort. Jason reported some lumps of pussy fluid every time he lay down and I wasn't sure which hole it was coming from. On the strength of his previous blood results which showed that his kidneys were in better shape than I had thought, I made the decision to go ahead with another procedure. We were joined by Dr Lamont today which was an honour for me as he has had more experience in the reconstruction of traumatised tissues than ten of me would ever get to see in a lifetime. As before the Kariega team of staff and volunteers swung into action and provided amazing, focused and dedicated work on a rhino which I know they would go to the ends of the earth for. The two worrying aspects from his blood results are the escalation of chemicals released by damaged liver and muscle cells. This was expected and we will only know the real significance of these values if today's blood results show an improvement or not. To assist with this aspect of his care I have asked for the advice of Prof Reyers an expert veterinary clinical haematologist who has also offered to lend his expertise to this process.
Themba coped better with his anaesthetic today than the previous time. His face is visibly improved and for the first time there were no maggots to be seen and there was very little necrotic tissue build up in his exposed nasal sinuses. The worrying news is that we are now seeing the full extent of his lack of blood on the night of the poaching and large areas of tissue have broken down and become infected. He has a hole on the inside of his shin that I can get my hand into and the middle third of his tibia can be felt through this hole. This cavity extends down to just short of his hock joint. The only way this infected tissue is able to escape is when he lies on his right side, so most of the time it has been sitting inside this cavity when we need it to leave the body. I was forced to make a drainage hole on the inside of his hock joint at the lowest point of the cavity through skin an inch thick and in the process I have disrupted some arterial supply which I will need to watched carefully. The process which is taking place now inside his leg we sometime refer to as absessation. In this case we are talking about multiple cavities some of which interlead. The most important thing we can do for him now is to ensure that all dead tissues inside his leg have a chance to drain out and we need to ensure that the infection in the dead tissue does not get into the living tissues and cause more damage. We have sent a sample away for culture and to test is if the anti-biotics we are using will be able to kill these bacteria. He woke up fine from the drugs and managed to take a small amount of weight on this leg in his sedated state before we left him. It is always such a relief to see him stand up and I know that for the next few days he will feel more comfortable. In spite of the awful amount of damage to this leg, his body is visibly trying to make things right. My thanks to Dr Lamont who is now comprehensively on board and will begin his own process of research and forward planning in the hope that we can restore their facial injuries to some level of dignity. The support for these two rhino is growing even more daily and we are so humbled by the efforts and contributions of so many people. It is difficult to predict what tomorrow will bring. For today, Themba is not another statistic and for this we are so so grateful!