BEARA-based acupuncturist Joanna Riddell had the most unusual patient of her career to date when she was recently asked to treat a sick wild swan.
Alex Scade, who runs the Beara Wildlife Sanctuary in Allihies, had rescued the swan, and when it wasn’t responding to conventional treatment, asked Joanna if acupuncture could help the bird.
A local resident who had spotted the swan in Castletownbere harbour and noticed that it seemed to be in distress, had contacted Alex. He collected the swan and brought him back to Allihies where he tried to nurse him back to health: ‘the swan was very weak and lethargic, his feathers were dirty, and he was underweight and couldn’t keep food down. His illness was probably caused by pollution in the water.’
However, when the swan failed to improve, knowing that acupuncture can also benefit animals, Alex contacted Joanna. The results were astonishing: ‘When Joanna first inserted the acupuncture needles into the swan it was extraordinary, you could visibly see the effect, he instantly became calmer, and his condition has improved hugely since he had the treatment and he is now able to keep food down.’
Joanna, from Bere Island, has operated her practice Beara Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture in Castletownbere since 2008. She treats a variety of conditions and although she has been called to treat a dog in the past, treating the swan was a first, ‘when Alex asked me to look at the swan, I of course wanted to help the animal. Swans by nature can be aggressive, and the bird did start to hiss when I first approached him, but Alex held him and calmed him.’
Joanna was able to insert the extremely fine acupuncture needles into the bird’s neck. ‘The swan responded very quickly and immediately started to calm and relax during the treatment.’ She explains that her knowledge of the human vertebra and its corresponding acupuncture points and, from reading up on swan anatomy she knew the appropriate points of the swan’s twenty five vertebrae in which to insert the needles.
‘Acupuncture is actually one of the safest forms of treatment for animals, although it should only be administered by a trained acupuncturist or a veterinarian with experience in acupuncture.’
Following a further acupuncture session, Alex reports the swan’s condition is improving daily, and he is able to eat once again. The Beara Wildlife Sanctuary is entirely dependent on voluntary contributions, both monetary and animal feed and Alex on 086-2215530.