My last clutch of eggs for the '06/'07 season started hatching on Thursday Septmeber 20th, 2007. This was a 9 egg clutch
from my Spider to a Normal female that we have had for about three years. This is the first clutch of eggs we got from her since we have had her. She was
sold to me as a LTC (long term captive), but I believe she was an imported gravid. She has eaten for us well over the last few years, and is a beautiful, big
girl. This clutch yielded 4 spiders and 6 normals. I know the snakes don't add up to the eggs, because this happened to be the clutch that produced our twins,
which hatched fine (small but ok) and 4 total Spiders (2.2).
When I got home from work on Friday, I checked the box and found this female Spider out of her egg. So, I washed her up and prepared her for her box with her female clutch mates. When I went to sex her, I noticed that there was a funny looking spot near where her heart would be that looked as if the scales were not connected, and upon further inspection, it looked as if that area was slightly bulged out. I then began looking for a "belly button", and could not find one, and it appeared that she did not absorb a yolk. No yolk was present in the egg, so I'm not sure about that part.
Well, we didn't see anything that looked life threatening, so I put her in the damp box with the other females from the clutch. The next morning I went to check the egg box to see if the last remaining Spider had crawled out of the egg. She had not, so I worried that there may be a problem. I cut the entire top off of the egg to have a closer look. I could not see anything wrong, so I put it back in the incubator. About 30 minutes later I checked to see if it came out, and sure enough there she was. I unplugged my incubator, as we are now done for the year, washed up the snake and brought her out to the room to put her in the hatchling box. This is when the fear finally hit me.
I opened the box to put her in, and decided to check on the other female Spider. When I finally got her untangled from the Ball Python clump, I noticed that the hernia, I'm guessing from being on the moist paper towel, had softened and her heart was now protruding completely from the funny spot I had noticed yesterday. I tried to push her heart back into the opening, but everytime it would beat, the heart would come back out of the opening. I immediately began to make phone calls to some buddies, to get some other opinions, as I knew if I didn't do anything, she would die anyway.
I finally got a hold of Adam, and told him the whole story. This is where I must send out the greatest thanks I can muster to Adam for the insight and help that he gave me. Adam told me that he had only seen this once a few years back at Ralph's facility. Ralph hatched a Lucy female with what sounded to him like the same scenario. Adam then proceeded to tell me what Ralph did, and that that girl is alive and well today. What Ralph did was to sew the hernia up using a needle and some unwaxed dental floss.
Well, now my journey begins, as I do not have any unwaxed dental floss at my house. I intended to go to the pharmacy and get what I needed to help this little girl out. In mid drive, I realized that the vets office was still open, and figured I would tell them the story and get a suture kit from them. They told me that it was against their policy to sell those kind of items, so I struck out there. I then went to the feed store hoping they would have suture kits, and no luck. The store and the pharmacy in our little town only had waxed dental floss, so now I'm enroute to town to go to Walgreens. I finally got to Walgreens and got what I needed and headed home. I stopped on the way home at Sean's shop, as it was on the way, and asked his advice. He said he had never done that, but it sounded like it would work. Off to the house to perform surgery.
I got the camera ready to take pics, set up a new box, just for her, that had a dry paper towel, and got the needle, dental floss and hemostats ready. I got Monica to come out and help hold the "patient" while I tried my damndest to help her live. NOTE: I had to drink a beer to steady my hands before I began. When I got her out to take a picture of the hernia, I noticed that it had gotten worse from the moisture softening the wound. When I first picked her up though, all of the organs were inside of her. I believe that when I picked her up, her heart rate increased from the stress, and her heart popped back out. I snapped a pic, and got to work stitching up the hole. I think I saw a dark spot on her heart while I was placing the sutures, and believe that I might have slightly bruised her heart, but I'm praying that she will be alright. I got five sutures in the hernia that was probably about 3/4 inch long, and it appears that if the scales grow together and the hole closes up that she will be fine.
On October 16th, Grace (named by the forum members of Ball Pythons.net) ate her first meal, a hopper mouse. On October 24th she deficated for the first time, insuring us that all of her internal organs were working properly, and she also ate her third meal. At this point, we were pretty convinced that she had made it over the hump, and would wind up being a normal snake with a scar to remind us of her trials. On November 4th, she completed her first shed, and we were convinced that all was downhill now. She had doubled in weight since hatching, when weighed after her shed, so eating and growing wasn't going to be a problem.
Just after her first birthday, Grace got on a FedEx plane and flew to Ohio, to live with her new family. She now resides with JoAnn Franchino and company, and is doingjust fine. She is still a little picky with what she will eat, but she still eats and grows like any other Ball. I hope you have enjoyed the story and the pictures. I know that Grace appreciates everyone reading her story, and I know that Grace and our family is very thankful for all of the prayers that were sent her way during the first days of her life.