Sometimes people who are healing from an injury have to use a motorized wheelchair until they are able to recover. When an Eastern box turtle in Maryland suffered an injury that required the animal to undergo surgery, it needed a little help getting around while it healed as well, and a “wheelchair” made from LEGO® bricks was created to help it.
According to the Maryland Zoo’s website, the injured turtle was found in a park by a zoo employee, who brought to the zoo’s veterinary hospital for treatment. The turtle had multiple fractures on the bottom part of his shell.
Surgery to stabilize the broken shell involved using metal bone plates, sewing clasps and surgical wire to hold the shell fragments together.
“It was important to keep the bottom of the shell off the ground so it could heal properly,” said Garrett Fraess, a veterinary extern at the Zoo. “They don’t make turtle-sized wheelchairs. So, we drew some sketches of a customized wheelchair and I sent them to a friend who is a LEGO® enthusiast.”
The builder created a multi-colored LEGO® brick wheelchair for the turtle, who is about the size of a grapefruit. The frame is attached to the turtle’s shell with plumber’s putty and gets him off of the ground so his legs can move. Four wheels make his movement easier, and the design allows him to still exhibit natural behaviors such as fully closing his shell.
“He never even hesitated,” Fraess said. “He took off and has been doing great. Turtles are really good at healing as long as the shell remains stable.”
“Turtles heal much slower than mammals and birds, since their metabolism is slower So, this turtle will likely use his LEGO® wheelchair through the winter and into the spring until all of the fragments have fused together and the shell has completely healed,” said Dr. Ellen Bronson of the zoo’s staff.