Bogey, a 24-year-old umbrella cockatoo, underwent multiple procedures over a span of 16 years for a recurrent, serious condition, but nothing worked. Kim Hannah, the founder and executive director of Exotic Avian Sanctuary of Tennessee, where Bogey lives, felt hopeless.
Christoph Mans, a clinical associate professor of zoological medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, described Bogey’s condition, known as chronic cloacal prolapse, as a disturbing one. The cloaca is the shared outlet in which the intestinal, urinary, and genital tracts of birds open. Bogey’s condition caused the internal tissues of the chamber to protrude from her body repeatedly, resulting in severe irritation.
“Multiple procedures had been tried over the years, but they all failed. I was then told nothing further could be done, which absolutely broke my heart,” Hannah says. “I started searching the country for someone that might be able to help.”
A Midwestern bird sanctuary directed Hannah and her veterinarian, Brandon Dixon, to consult with Mans on Bogey’s health.
Mans recalled a forthcoming research paper by a colleague in Canada that detailed a novel procedure to remedy the problem. With this in mind, he agreed to take Bogey on as a patient.
The surgical technique was not the only unusual factor in the cockatoo’s journey. She also happened to come to Wisconsin with a dedicated online fanbase. Through social media, the Tennessee sanctuary successfully fundraised money for Bogey’s medical bills. They also found cross-state volunteers willing to help Bogey get to the hospital on a private plane and home via coordinated carpooling. Hundreds of people interacted with and responded to progress and recovery updates that the sanctuary posted to social media throughout Bogey’s journey.
“Pre-Facebook it would have almost been impossible,” Mans said, referring to the online coordination.
The surgery, called asymmetric cloacoplasty, involves making an incision and applying a suture to reduce the cloacal opening. The procedure was successful and Bogey recovered well during a three-week hospital stay. When the sanctuary shared a social media post announcing her release from the hospital, followers flooded the comment section with heart emojis and well wishes.
Mans was pleased to have completed a new procedure that solved a complicated, reccurring issue in birds. Bogey, he said, felt the excitement as well: she was energetically dancing and singing the day after her surgery.
“I now have people reach out to me all the time that have the same issue with their parrot and I always tell them to have their vet reach out to Dr. Mans,” Hannah says. “I hope this life-saving surgery becomes more widely known and helps save more lives. I will be forever grateful to Dr. Mans and his team and the University of Wisconsin.”
Now, more than a year out from her stay at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine, Bogey is thriving and continues to receive routine aftercare from her primary veterinarian at home in Tennessee. “I truly believe Dr. Mans saved her life,” Hannah says.