I first met George in early 1994. I woman that I had previously helped sell her Miligold brought him to me. At the time his name was Snowball. These were nice people but really shouldn't have had a bird. The wife cared about the bird, but the husband only saw them as a status symbol of same sort. They had bought him from a pet store. Said they paid over $1600 for him. The pet store hadn't really told them anything about how to care for him or about Cockatoos at all. I don't know his age but he had a quarantine band on and seemed to be full grown.
Anyway, he was brought to me because the wife thought "something was wrong" with his leg. She came to my house with this bundle in a towel. I took the bundle and found a very sweet and scared Umbrella Cockatoo in it. As I spoke to the wife I checked him all over with my hands feeling all his bones. His wings and body felt fine, checked the leg on the left, then felt the leg on the right. It was turned completely around the other direction! It was broken just above the ankle. He was amazingly calm while I did all this stuff to him. I asked the wife how she thought this happened and she said she wasn't home at the time but that her husband was. He had been sleeping on the couch while she was shopping. Snowball had been out of his cage playing on top of it. The husband said that bird had caught his leg in the cage and must have broken it that way. (I actually believe the bird was probably screaming and playing, therefore disrupting the husband sleep so he hit the bird to shut it up, but I can't prove it.) The wife knew that I do a little bit of my own vet stuff to my own birds as a breeder and wanted me to set the leg for her. I told her no and gave her the name of my vet and also a few others in the area. She left with him saying that she would take him to a vet.
A on the 1st of Oct she again called me and asked if I would do a wing and nail clipping on him and possibly give him a bath. We set up a time and she brought him to me and left to do some shopping. I noticed that he still wasn't putting much weight on the leg that he had broken. I took him in and placed him in the tub and proceeded to give him a bath. When I was through and went to pick him up and was poked in the hand by something very sharp. I wrapped him in a towel and proceeded to check to see what it was. It was a pin that the vet had used to set his leg, it poked out the bottom of his ankle and every time that he tried to place any weight on his foot this thing would get bumped! It had to be terribly painful! Finished with the bath and wing clip. His nail weren't that bad and I didn't want to mess with his leg anyway.
When she returned I showed the pin to her and told her she needed to take him to the vet that it should be removed, it wasn't suppose to be there forever. She asked me if he would ever use his foot again and I told her it was hard to tell, I wasn't a vet and didn't know how bad his leg really was. She used my phone and called her husband and spoke to him about Snowball. When she came back in the room she asked if I would like to buy him, as the husband didn't want a "crippled" bird. I said yes and proceeded to pay her for him. It was the best thing I could have done.
A few days later I made an appointment with vet to have him look at the pin. The following is a list of the events that happened from my bird diary.
Oct 5, 1994
Went to Dr. Sims after work to have him look at Snowball. Had to knock him out so we could work with him easily. When Dr. Simms started looking at him he was very up set. The vet that had worked on him really didn't do it right. He had placed the pin in the leg starting at the hip and going down and out the bottom of his ankle (x-ray). This had damaged is ankle joint and the tendons to his toes. It was unlikely that he would ever move his toes again. Added to this was a hole in his flesh around the original break about 1 ½" x ¾" that the bone was exposed and was dead. Along with this he probably had a bone infection that we could not see. The bone was still broken; it had never healed and was only held in place by the pin. Dr. Sims gave me three options. 1) I could but him down 2) amputate his leg 3) we could take the dead bone out, put a brace around his leg, heal the wound and any infection he had, then replace the bone with a bone graph that his bone could grow to and give him back partial use of his leg. He couldn't guarantee that this would work, as he had never heard of any vet that had done this before. I decided that we would try this and Dr. Sims prepared him for surgery right then. Since it was after hours I got to help with the surgery. It was very fascinating. We removed the dead bone, cleaned out the wound really good. Placed two pins above the break and two pins below going sideways through the bone then connected pins to these four to hold the leg in place (x-ray). Poor Snowball, he had this big scaffolding of pins on his leg! He looked like he was under construction! We then packed the wound with medicine and wrapped his leg all up. Gave him a shot of Amoxi-injet and a shot of Nexcell. We then took some photos and x-rays and woke him up and I took him home. I will come back next week.
He doesn't seem to be in too much pain. Eating well. Acting "normal", as well as can be expected. Every other day I change the bandage and apply medicine to the open wound. He's very good during this and doesn't fight very much. I continue to give shot of Nexcell every day.
Go back to Dr. Sims. He is very pleased with the amount of healing. We knock him out again so we can do a good cleaning of the wound and x-rays. When he cleans the wound it bleeds a lot. Dr. Sims says this is good it means he has a good blood supply. We replace the bandage and I go home with him.
We continue to change the bandage every 3 days and give shots every day. On the 27th the vet wrap in the top pin by his side comes off and by the time I see it he has rubbed a hole in the skin on his side about the size of a dime. I place a 2" x 2" Band-Aid on his side to keep the pin from poking him more and rewrap the pin. Over the next few days the wound doesn't look much better.
Go back to Dr. Sims for a check up. We re-arrange the pins and cut a few off to take pressure of the wound on his side, it couldn't heal with the pressure on it. The wound on his leg is almost healed. We decide to unwrap and leave it unwrapped. We take x-ray and the bone around the pins looks good and strong. In the x-rays we take it looks as though the bone may be starting to grow into the gap where the bone is missing!!! We may not need to do the bone graph at all! We decide to wait before doing the bone graph and make sure all the infection is gone and see what the bone can do on it's own.
On the 3rd he nibbles a little on his leg (it probably itches) doing some bruising. I lightly wrap the leg with vet wrap and let him chew on that instead. Continue the shots everyday. He's feeling better, starting to squawk at night and is fighting a little with the other birds.
I have a bird expo and Dr. Sims is there doing sexing so I take him with me. He looks and the leg and the wound on his side. Leg looks good, all healed. Wound on side almost healed. Bone feels like it is still growing together. We will see him at the end of the month.
He continues to ask more normal. He's using his leg a little for balance but when he walks he still packs it.
I have trip to LA and need to take him with me because he needs his shots everyday. On the drive down he stands on top of his cage and learns that it really doesn't hurt to use his leg anymore. I have never liked the name "Snowball" and on the trip he is re-named George, after a family ghost because in the dark he looks like he is "glowing".
Doing well, still getting shots.
Back to Dr. Sims. Take more x-rays. THE BONE IS ALL HEALED BY IT'S SELF!!! We don't need to do the bone graph. We remove all the pins, they are really loose now. Wrap the leg were the pins were and give some Amoxi-drops. Stop doing all the shots. Ankle still moves a little but Dr. Simms thinks that it will eventually freeze up along with the knee. We wrap his toes to keep them straight as he can't move them.
Continue the drops every day. After 5 days I unwrap the leg and the wounds are all healed. Toes are still wrapped. Leg seems a little tender.
Using leg more. No shots or drops.
Go back to Dr. Sims. We take first two joints of the front long toe off as it folds over and throws him off balance. Bone in leg is good and strong.
Leave the bandage on the toe that we removed for 5 days. It must really itch as he tries to remove it several times. Once he's healed and I remove the bandage he really uses his leg a lot. Stands on it, walks even scratches with it. May need to remove his back little toe, it folds over and gets in the way when he is standing.
Take him back to Dr. Sims and we remove his back toe. Dr. Sims is very happy with the outcome. This is where I thank him for all his hard work and time that he spent with me on the phone as a worried mom! As George comes out of anesthesia he bites me for the first time during all this! But that's ok, he's well and happy and that's the most important thing!
In the years that have past George has acquired a girlfriend (Chewy) and has produced several very sweet babies. His ankle and knee joints have fused stiff. He now stands even better and has learned to climb his cage by putting the wire between his two front toes. Because he can't hold a nut in his foot Chewy will crack it and let him take it from her mouth. They are the most loving couple that I have ever seen!
Chewy has past away. After laying 2 eggs a 3rd egg yolk fell into her body cavity and became infected. She past away in the night. George is feeling the pain but is continuing to eat and act normal. I will be an the hunt for a new mate for him immediately. Please let me know if you know of any adult female Umbrellas for sale.
Added spring 2003
Took a while but I was able to find a mate for George. A beautiful girl all the way from Maine! She acts quite a bit like Chewy in some ways. She is a little smaller, more George's size. They laid 2 eggs about 2 months after getting together. Both were fertile! And my goodness this gal even sits and takes care of them! (this is hard to find in Umbrellas). I hope this will be long lasting relationship that they both will enjoy:)