LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Dr. Dawn Reeves of Lake Charles is a neonatologist with the University of California in San Diego. She's trained to care for newborn humans, but a rare need for a gorilla C-section at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and a strong love for animals had her ready to help.
"I'm a huge advocate for animals," said Dr. Reeves. "Anyone that knows me knows I have a special place in my heart for all species."
Reeves' primary job involves newborn babies. Her family resides primarily in Lake Charles as well as the Ragley and Reeves area.
Reeves started at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock and trained in neonatal and pediatric care at the Arkansas Children's Hospital, but it was her job at the University of California in San Diego that got her on board to help a baby gorilla in need.
"I arrived at the zoo thinking that my only involvement was going to be the initial resuscitation of the baby once she was delivered," said Reeves. "As things progressed, my role sort of expanded as more of a consultant to help make decisions on how to care for a critically ill baby."
The baby gorilla, which is now battling pneumonia, is under 24-hour care of zoo veterinarians and other human neonatal specialists and Reeves role in her recovery is vital.
"We sort of worked together as a team to make decisions on how to best ventilate the baby on oxygen, on medication, on fluid status in labs," said Reeves. "My role was to help the veterinarians interpret the baby's status and give them input on what's the next step."
Reeves also says her help in the baby gorilla's road to recovery is more than just work.
"It's just a great story of a love for animals and the basic physiology and how people are coming together to help make sure these babies are taken care of as well," said Reeves.
Reeves says the baby gorilla, who has yet to be named, is showing signs of improvement and is requiring less supervision as she recovers.