George the tortoise’s life has been saved by the extraordinary skills of a veterinary nurse – and a tub of car body filler from Halfords.
The 14-year-old reptile was callously left at the side of the road with a cracked and bleeding shell by a hit-and-run driver.
Owner Nat Kelly, 24, who got George for Christmas 14 years ago, thought his pet – notorious for escaping from the garden – had finally gone on one adventure too many.
Nat, from Chorley, Lancs, said: “The car ran straight over him, making a horrible clattering like an exhaust falling off, so it was unbelievable the driver did not stop.
“I ran to where he was thrown against the kerb and he was not moving. When I saw a massive crack on his back and pool of blood under him, I feared the worst.”
Nat carefully packed George in a box and took him to Chorley Vets where even experienced staff recoiled at the extent of the damage to his shell.
But veterinary nurse Sonia Green, who owns the practice, knew straight away that as long as his internal organs were undamaged, she could save him.
Sonia, 48, said: “I have re-built two tortoises’ shells before and I knew I could help George, but I was worried. You could see his lungs through the hole. His was the worst shell damage I have seen.”
George was given an anaesthetic and had X-rays which showed no internal damage, despite the fact that a small section of the shell – which had to be cut out – had been driven down into his body.
After 10 days of painkillers, antibiotics to ward off infections and a plaster covering the wound – which was changed twice at the surgery – George went back for a final fix to his damaged shell.
In preparation, Sonia queued for an hour outside Halfords to get a car repair kit. First, she applied a medical filling, that congeals but later dissolves, to the hole to protect George’s internal organs.
She then applied a mixture of resin and fibre-glass filling, used on car bodies, which she sanded down afterwards.
Added Sonia: “It is exactly the same stuff used for any garage repair but it is perfect for tortoise shells.
“It has worked a treat on George and should protect him over the next few years while his own shell re-grows under it, which could take five years or more.”
George is back home with Nat, who said: “I was really angry at the car driver but what Sonia has done is brilliant.”