When one man adopted a tiny turtle with an exposed heart, it transformed his life in unexpected ways. Hope has a rare condition that makes her incredibly vulnerable. Instead of a shell, there’s a thin membrane covering her heart. As far as Mike knows, there’s no other turtle like her in the world.
“I first met Hope when one of my friends facetimed me out of the blue. He was like ‘I had this turtle born and she has an exposed heart. There’s no shell where her heart is.’ I didn’t believe him, and then he turned the camera around and I saw her for the very first time. I was really in disbelief. So, he asked me if I would be willing to take her in because he knew she would need some extra special care,” Mike says.
When Mike heard about her, he immediately felt called to adopt her so she’d have a fair shot at life. He knew he had an uphill battle ahead, but he was committed to keeping her alive. People asked him why he cared so much about a turtle that didn’t have much chance of survival. But, he felt drawn to the turtle and inspired by her story.
When Mike took her home, he got her all settled in a tank with fresh water. Then, he decided to keep tabs on her size and weight, wanting to ensure she grew at a healthy rate. She was only the size of a quarter when Mike first got her.
She was so small and fragile, so he made sure to handle her gently. At first, he hesitated to even touch her since she was so delicate. He took extra precautions to keep the tiny turtle safe and healthy, and tried not to handle her too often.
View this post on Instagram
Caring for the Tiny Turtle with a Window to her Heart
“So, what I did to help her was I kept the water as clean as possible, I kept the enclosure as clean as possible. I made sure there was nothing sharp in the tank, I made sure that it was always clean,” Mike said. “The filter had fresh media in it and I was feeding a variety of foods. When she was small, the main food was frozen bloodworms. I used to feed her with a pair of feeding tongs because her vision was not that great. So when I held the food in front of her face, it made it a lot easier for her to eat.”
Hope seemed to become attached to Mike very quickly. She would even flap her arms when her dad came near her tank! That’s her way of saying she’s excited to see him. She swims right up to the glass whenever her dad walks into the room. Their bond is truly something special. Without Mike, she may not have even lived past infancy. It seems that, in a way, she can sense how much Mike loves and cares about her.
The most important part of caring for her was to keep her water clean and at the right temperature. Since Hope has an exposed heart, any contaminated water would go directly into the most vulnerable part of her body. So, Mike had to ensure the water didn’t get too warm since bacteria thrive in warmer temperatures. He says that’s also why he had to keep her heart exposed so bacteria didn’t get trapped inside.
Mike admits that in the beginning, he was scared and didn’t know what to expect. He feared that one day, he would wake up and she wouldn’t be swimming in the tank anymore. However, much to his relief, she just kept getting bigger and bigger! She continually gained weight, growing little by little each month. After the six-month mark passed, Mike finally felt confident about her condition. Now, she’s about three years old, and still growing and thriving!
View this post on Instagram
The turtle who brings hope to humanity
“Hope really gave me the opportunity to connect on a deeper level with people. So it’s not just about helping animals anymore – it’s about helping animals AND people because of Hope. There’s a lot more things that I’m really proud of. We made it to the news, we were on TV, lots of different opportunities that came because of Hope. Everything about keeping her and having her and being able to give her a life is really, really rewarding.”
Mike says many people think you can’t connect with a turtle like you can with a cat or dog. However, he and Hope share a very beautiful bond. Any time Mike comes home from work, she starts flailing her arms and splashing around in the water. She always gets excited to see him, just like a dog does when their owner returns from work. Her flapping her arms around is akin to a dog wagging its tail when it’s happy! She’s a very playful turtle, and Mike enjoys every second he gets with her.