DIARY OF A PINKY
Background - On 8 June I received a call from Wildcare's 24 hour emergency number, asking me to pick up two kangaroo joeys urgently. When I arrived at the house I found that they were "pinky" twins. They were ice cold and not moving. The lady of the house had not realized that it was necessary to give them additional heating to maintain their body temperatures.
The doe had been shot approximately 24 hours before and the children had wanted to raise the twins, however when they got progressively weaker Wildcare was called.
Neither joey had its eyes open or its ears up. The little boy weighed only 475 grams and the little girl was even smaller at 425 grams. I estimate that they were only about 120 days old. I "wore" them under my sweater for two days to bring their core temperature up to normal. This created the illusion of instant, well advanced pregnancy and was the cause of a lot of mirth amongst my friends. The feeding regime was every 4 hours with kangaroo milk formula and hydrating fluids. Each feed took a total of two hours which left me with two hours to get a little sleep between feeds. I felt like a zombie.
11 June. The little boy died (subsequent post mortem showed that he had sustained massive bruising to the head). The little girl (Pam) battles on but her weight dropped to an alarming 350 grams today.
17 June. Took her to veterinarian. Subcutaneous fluids given plus cortisone and antibiotics. She has to have antibiotic injections for the next 3 days. She was running a high temperature last night and was very weak.
19 June. She's a lot stronger now. Eyes are beginning to open and ears are starting to come up!!! I'm the one needing the vet and a pouch. These 4 hourly feeds are necessary but exhausting. Weight 450 grams.
25 June. Now feeding 5 times a day. She passed a lot of blood today, probably an intestinal caste (shedding of the intestinal lining). Temperature spiked at 36 degrees C. Eyes nearly fully open. Weight 525 grams.
30 June. Seems to have passed another intestinal caste but it hasn't affected her in the slightest. Eating well. Temperature spike this evening. Weight 550 grams.
4 July. Massive temperature drop after 4th feed today. I had to wear her again for a few hours. She stabilized and took her milk with no problem at feed 5. Weight 575 grams.
17 July. Fur is starting to show through!! She's feeding well - in fact she's a real guts. I've switched her to a more concentrated milk so that she'll feel more satisfied. Weight 750 grams.
19 July. She's been doing brilliantly - much more alert and is showing that she has a real temper, particularly when I have to change her liner. She has an amazing ability to turn herself into a "turtle" by pulling her head right into her body it seems, whilst stretching her legs, thus making it almost impossible to get her out of her soiled liner without a great deal of struggling on both our parts. She looks so angelic though!! Weight now 800 grams.
1 August. Fine golden down on head and legs. It looks very much as though she is going to be a blonde!!! Dropped feeds to four per day. What a relief for me. She now weighs 1.050 kg!!!!!!
3 August. She seemed to be suffering from colic last night. Gave her hypericum and feeding hydrating fluid instead of milk. She settled after Feed 3 today so put her back on to her milk as she was really hungry poor baby.
8 August. She's now on the transition to the most concentrated kangaroomilk. She managed to get out of her pouch two days ago, which was a worry because she's still not strong enough to stand up without assistance. Luckily I checked on her within a couple of minutes and found her "crawling" on the floor. I think she was trying to get to me after I'd left the room to get her bottle. It won't be too long before she starts her first tentative exploration. She is going to be a true blonde - her fur is getting longer and she's definitely the palest kangaroo joey I've ever had a sort of a beige blonde with the prettiest little face. Of course I'm biased! Weight now 1.25 kg.
29 August. Pam now officially qualifies as a finely to fully furred joey! Quite an achievement! She is a true blonde - pale cream on her chest and stomach and a beautiful pearly beige face with a slightly darker back to match her ears. Over the past few days she's been getting very restless and spends a lot of her day peering out of her pouch watching the goings on in my household which now includes two swamp wallabies, a full grown ginger and white cat (Frankie), a dark tabby half grown cat (Stewie) and my darling poodle (Misty) who is totally blind. There is quite a bit for her to observe. She now weighs 1.8 kg.
5 September. We have had a major breakthrough in the past week. Her ladyship got out of her pouch again and she doesn't mind being changed into a new liner quite as much. She obviously wants to stretch her legs so I'm standing her up and letting her roll into the new liner. She's still very wobbly still but is getting stronger every day. It won't be very long before she starts "punting" which is the kangaroo equivalent of a baby crawling before walking. In this case punting is using her hands on the ground as support and moving her backlegs forward so that the animal moves forward without hopping. She's eating like a pig and is now showing interest in grass, roots and dirt, which I pin to her pouch. Weight is now 2.050 kg.
3 October. Madam is doing extremely well. In the last couple of weeks she's started getting out of her pouch and is now doing wobbly hops around me. I love it when joeys get to this stage. They are so cute and so very surprised when they find they can do all sorts of strange things with those long legs. She will be getting a little "friend" next week to keep her company as she needs another joey of her own age and size. They learn things from one another. She now weighs a whopping 2.9kg.
7 October. As well as Pam (and Gina in the photograph above) I also have two swamp wallaby joeys. Zoe, the smallest of the two, has started to climb into Pam's pouch for a snooze. Pam doesn't seem to mind in the slightest. I thought this photograph was so cute that I couldn't resist adding it to this page. Unfortunately Swampies are very dark in colour and its hard to get a decent photograph of them. I'll be getting another Eastern Grey joey to pair up with Pam quite soon. We like to pair up our joeys because they are company for each other and one learns from the other. Pam now weighs 3.1 kg.
4 November. Pam's new friend, Friday, arrived since my last entry. Friday is a little female Eastern Grey Joey the same age and weight as Pam. She's settling in well and I'll be including a photograph of the two of them together as soon as I can get them to stand still long enough. In the meantime I managed to "snap" Pam when she stopped for a breather. She now weighs 4 kg.
17 November. Disaster!!! Pam broke her tail 6 days ago. She hit the glass door at speed and must have somehow twisted her tail when she fell. The break is up high near the base of the tail, x-rays have been taken and the vet thinks that it should heal OK. In the last couple of days her tail has developed a pronounced curve to the left. It's terribly swollen but doesn't seem to be causing her much discomfort at the moment. I'm very worried about the effect this will have on her in the long term because kangaroos use their tails as a balance. If the balance is not right it will have serious consequences on her prospects of being successfully released.
18 November. Today I took her to another vet who gassed her down and snapped a couple of x-rays . My worst fears were confirmed - the bone was broken right through (the break has worsened in the last few days). A splint about 5 inches long has been put on to try to get the bones to knit correctly. She will be in the splint for at least four weeks and is not to put any weight on the tail during that time. She still has a chance but I've been told to prepare myself for the worst. I'm devastated. On the way home she was extremely agitated because she was coming out of the anaesthetic and I had to stop the car three times. She managed to rip her pouch to shreds before we got home.
24 November. Back to the vet for a check up today. She is very pleased with her progress but told me that even if the bones knit there could possibly be ligament damage. If this is the case there will be no option as ligament damage in the tail could not be repaired. She is a wonderful little patient, considering that she doesn't know why "mum" has suddenly gone mad and confined her to her pouch. I'm having to toilet her by laying her flat across my lap and I've put her into a bigger pouch to give her more room to accommodate the splinted tail. Poor baby, she wants to get out and play with her friend Friday, but she can't and she's getting very frustrated. I have to separate the two of them at night now. Pam sleeps in my bedroom with me so that I can be there if she tries to get out of the pouch and I'm having to have a friend "babysit" her when I have to go into town to do the shopping as I can't trust her not to get out of the pouch when I'm not there. She doesn't seem to be in any pain and I'm being very careful when I have to take her out of the pouch, very occasionally she hisses when I'm changing her liner and she almost always tries to "make a break for it" just to get some exercise. I'm massaging her back and legs to reduce the possibility of pressure spots and she seems to enjoy this a lot. If she heals with no complications this will all be worthwhile, but it breaks my heart to think of the alternative. She is such a vibrant, beautiful little girl with a loving and patient temperament.
1 December. Back to the vet again today. I was almost positive that I wasn't going to bring my little girl home but thankfully this wasn't the case although the news wasn't particularly good. The tendons in Pam's tail are tightening up, that's why it's bending underneath her when she manages to "escape" from me. Another x-ray was taken and a callous is forming over the break. Because of the very real danger of the tendons being permanently damaged, the splint was taken off. I now have to give her physiotherapy to try to stretch the tendons so that the tail resumes its proper position. She doesn't particularly like it of course but I'm able manage without having to have someone hold her which is what we thought might have to happen. We still don't know whether there is ligament damage and I have to take her back to the vet again early next week. In the meantime she is still "pouch bound" and is getting increasingly frustrated. She was so bad two days ago that I had to give her a shot of valium (intra muscular) to calm her down as she had worked herself up into a terrible state and there was a real chance of her going into myopathy which is always lethal. I hated sedating her like that but I had no option. She's been very good since and now obviously appreciates the fact that the splint is no longer on her tail - although I would feel a lot safer if it was still there to protect the fracture site. The strain is starting to tell on me and I was weak and tearful with relief after leaving the vet, even though I know that we will have to do it all again next week. She's put on weight even though she's been "pouch bound" and is now over 5 kg.
12 December. I haven't been able to bring myself to make this entry until today. On Monday 8 December I took my little darling back to the vet. Her tail had got worse and there was nothing more that could be done. It broke my heart but I had to have her put to sleep. I had the joy of having her for exactly 6 months. She would never have been able to be released and because a kangaroo's tail is absolutely essential to its survival in the wild, there was no option. She is buried here at home and I will always cherish the memories I have of her. She was a very special and beautiful little girl, who I loved dearly.
Early in 1998 I received an email from the University of Maryland about this page. One of the professors in the School of Nursing is doing research work on "Kangaroo Care" for premature (human) babies and was struck by the similarity of caring for pinky kangaroos and caring for premature human babies. She invited me to be the after dinner speaker at the First Kangaroo Care Congress in Baltimore in October 1998. Needless to say I accepted, despite the fact that I had never made a speech in my life! On 24 October 1998, I found myself standing on a podium at a hotel in Baltimore, talking to over 100 doctors and nurses about my darling Pam and explaining in detail the work which goes into raising these wonderful animals. It was an amazing experience and I shall treasure the memories of this experience and the remarkable and dedicated people I met. Thank you so much Susie (Professor Ludington) for making this possible. The next pages tell of this once in a lifetime experience. Something very good and positive came out of small personal tragedy.