UNMC News

Dr. Lydiatt's 'ape-typical' follow-up visit

The assignment itself was straightforward: Attend the press conference for the gorilla who was recently treated at The Nebraska Medical Center.

Which brought to mind a few questions: Gorillas have press conferences? What might the gorilla say? Would the gorilla have a better rapport with the media than some prominent public figures? (Answers: Yes, not much, and yes.)

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Dr. Lydiatt laughs on Thursday as he discusses the recent jaw surgery he performed on Tubby -- one of the Henry Doorly Zoo's gorillas -- who looks on from a distance.
Turns out, the occasion was the triumphant return to public display, at the Henry Doorly Zoo, of Tubby the gorilla. Tubby had been treated at the med center May 5 for a fractured upper jaw. Now he felt better. And as the ape ambled into the sunshine, UNMC's Bill Lydiatt, M.D., professor, otolaryngology - head and neck surgery, basked in his former patient's magnificence.

A VI, um, G?

Dr. Lydiatt recalled the day when he and his team removed part of Tubby's jaw and a few teeth: "We've got a VIP coming in," he told hospital staff.

Who?

"You'll know him when you see him."

A gorilla scuffle

Tubby had been injured in an apparent intra-troop tiff. But on Thursday, a few weeks post surgery, he looked fit as a fiddle.

"He's eating carrots," Dr. Lydiatt observed. "That's typically not the broken-jaw diet."

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Dr. Lydiatt tells a young zoo visitor about the surgery he performed on Tubby the gorilla.
Valued expertise

Julie Napier, D.V.M., the zoo's senior vet, said she and her colleagues might have been able to fix Tubby.

But it was a huge help to be able to lean on a specialist from UNMC.

"Bill did the surgery in 30 minutes," she said. "He does them all the time."

Fond of these patients

Dr. Lydiatt has had his share of patients referred to him by the zoo, and the admiration he holds for these animals is palpable.

Ask him to tell the story of the time another gorilla shook off anesthesia and sat up, on the table, to look Dr. Lydiatt in the eye. (Let's just say Dr. Lydiatt left the room at cartoon-like speed.)

A better outcome

But Tubby's case went much more smoothly. As the press conference broke up, Tubby checked in on the kids who called for his attention from behind the glass. He strutted in the sun, ate his greens.

Then he lay down in the grass, and scratched. He lay there, content, daydreaming his gorilla dreams.

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Dan G
May 18, 2012 at 10:23 AM

Great story! Who gets that EOB from BlueCross???

Barbara
May 18, 2012 at 8:44 AM

I think this is awesome!