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Orthodontist works on sea turtle

PALM BEACH, Fla., Aug. 1 (UPI) -- A Florida orthodontist fitted a 171-pound green sea turtle with braces, officials say.

The endangered turtle, named Andre after the Andre the Giant, a French wrestler who died in 1993, was found in June 2010, stranded on a sandbar near the Juno Beach Pier in Florida, The Palm Beach Post reported.

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The turtle had been hit by a boat propeller, leaving two large gashes in its shell, one of which was the size of a human forearm.

He was brought to the Loggerhead Marinelife Center, a non-profit agency that rehabilitates injured and sick sea turtles.

There, marine life specialists found Andre had a collapsed lung, pneumonia, an exposed spinal cord and severe infections.

"I found a live crab inside," said Melissa Ranly, Marinelife hospital coordinator.

Turtle experts at the center cleaned his wounds and put black foam on them to promote healing.

Then orthodontist Alberto Vargas was called in to use braces to make a bridge from either side of the wounds to push and pull the shell together, promoting growth.

"We lessened the size of the hole," said Vargas, who is based in Abacoa.

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After 13 months of treatment, Andre is ready to be released. His skin has covered the once exposed organs and is hard enough to withstand being in the ocean.

"Andre has a real spirit. That's what got him through this. We'll miss him," said Brittany Jo Miller, a spokeswoman for the Loggerhead Marinelife Center.

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