Cancer patient gets an audience with Allison the sea turtle

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Allison swam to the edge of her tank, peering closely at her visitor.

Allison, a green sea turtle with a prosthetic fin who lives at Sea Turtle, Inc., seemed to know, as animals so often do, that she and Katelyn Huchin shared a common bond.

And she was right.

Katelyn, 23, was in a wheelchair, and she’d traveled from San Antonio with her family and care team on Sept. 24 to visit a part of nature she has always loved.

Katelyn Huchin, 23, visits Sea Turtle Inc. Sept. 24, 2022, on South Padre Island. (Courtesy photo)

As Katelyn and Allison watched each other from opposite sides of the tank, they seemed for a moment to share one of those pristine and enchanting moments between humanity and wild nature from which we came — and it was powerful.

“I liked how she kept on swimming towards me and looking at me in my wheelchair so it was pretty nice,” said Katelyn. “I was thinking, ‘Hey, look, we’re kind of alike, you know. We both have our own health issues.’”

Sea Turtle, Inc. rescues and rehabilitates several species of the marine animal at a facility on South Padre Island.

Katelyn’s trip to see Allison began five years ago, when physicians diagnosed the San Antonio resident with kidney cancer, said Holly Titsworth, public relations manager for AccentCare. The hospice and palliative care provider arranged Katelyn’s trip to Sea Turtle Inc.

Katelyn Huchin, 23, visits Sea Turtle Inc. with her family and care team Sept. 24, 2022, on South Padre Island. (Courtesy photo)

The trip was further complicated when the cancer spread to other areas of her body.

“After several years of exhausting curative treatments and therapies, she made the difficult decision to live life with quality and pain management rather than continue seeking a cure,” said Titsworth, who expressed admiration for Katelyn’s courage and resilience.

“Katelyn lived in her own apartment in San Antonio for awhile, but recently had to move back in with her family,” Titsworth said. “Her father now stays home to help care for her alongside her hospice team. Katelyn prided herself on her independence through the most difficult part of her life but has accepted the need for support in her final days.”

A woman of such inner strength certainly deserved an audience with the sea creatures she has so loved all her life.

“I love turtles in general and tortoises,” she said. “Sea turtles are truly one of the blessings the ocean can have, and it’s pretty cool how you can tell the difference between the male and the female by the tail.”

She showed particular interest in all the different types of turtles in the world. Sea Turtle Inc. alone works with several species of sea turtle including loggerheads, Kemp’s ridley, hawksbills and green sea turtles.

“Sea turtles, I like how many different types of turtles there are and how their personalities are so different,” she said.

She thoroughly enjoyed her two-day visit with Allison and the other residents.

“It was pretty cool to know there are places out there for just turtles,” she said. “It’s really nice because they get their own special treatment, and they get the care that they need.”

The communion with sea turtles who seemed to connect with her struggle gave her a sense of peace and vitality, which she was still feeling the following week.