Mountain Man Jay

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Orangutan at Phoenix Zoo gets life-saving surgery

Medical history is now being made at the Phoenix Zoo.

It’s not unlike humans to get this particular kind of sinus surgery, but Daniel is the first orangutan in the country to ever get this kind of surgery.

Monkey see, and now monkey do.

“Can you open your mouth? Oh, good boy!”

Daniel is the Phoenix Zoo’s 12-year-old orangutan, who spent this last year with a severe sinus infection. And medicine just wasn’t working.

“He had a lot of sinus pressure and he just felt not well,” said Mary Yoder, Daniel’s longtime caretaker.

That’s when the zoo decided he needed surgery to save his life, and quick, so they called ear, nose, and throat doctor David Simms, whose regular patients are humans.

“I got a note on my desk that said that the zoo was calling about possibly doing an operation on an orangutan, and originally I thought it was a joke,” said Simms.

But it wasn’t, and Simms got to work right away, 3D printing a cell-by-cell replica of Daniel’s skull to prepare for the 3-hour long surgery.

“The anatomy is very similar to humans, so once I got inside with my scope it wasn’t that much different,” said Simms.

The procedure went off without a hitch.

Daniel now has open pink tissue on his throat to keep him healthy. And his personality? Back to monkeying around, thanks to Dr. Simms.

“How many surgeries would you say you’ve performed on humans?” we asked.

“Thousands,” said Simms.

“And how many on an orangutan?”

“One!” said Simms.

Because the surgery was so successful, the zoo now expects Daniel to be able to live into his 50s.


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