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Medical experts volunteer to help chimp

Medical experts from throughout the Oklahoma City area volunteered their time to help a malnourished chimpanzee at the Oklahoma City Zoo.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Staff Writer ccoppernoll@opubco.com Published: August 22, 2011

Experts volunteer to help chimp

Experts in the field of human medicine volunteered at the Oklahoma City Zoo to help Siri the chimpanzee grow into a healthy, normal chimp.

Dr. David Saxton, of McBride Orthopedic Hospital, amputated Siri's arm after an accident crushed it.

“I felt really fortunate that I was in a position to be able to help,” he said.

Other volunteers said it was an interesting, exciting experience to be a part of.

“It was really fun,” said Dr. Michael Siatkowski, a neuro-pediatric ophthalmologist at the Dean McGee Eye Institute.

Siatkowski performed tests on Siri's eyes after zookeepers expressed concern. He said Siri's vision is normal.

Physically, Siri was far behind other chimps her age, said Tammy Brinlee, the physical therapy supervisor for the McBride Orthopedic Clinic in Edmond. Brinlee volunteered with the zoo to help build Siri's muscles and motor skills.

Teaching Siri good eating habits has been tricky as well, said Erika Lee, a speech pathologist who works with children with oral aversions at OU Medical Center.

“What we had to do was teach her how to let her belly get full and that that was OK and that felt good,” Lee said.

Amanda Bower, a pediatric dietitian at OU Medical Center, helped zoo staff find the right foods for the malnourished chimp. She recommended a prescription baby formula and a variety of finger foods.

While Siri is still adapting to eating solid foods, she has made an amazing amount of progress, Bower said.

“I feel really overjoyed that I could be a part of that,” she said.

CARRIE COPPERNOLL, Staff Writer