Limitless Passion to Save
Meet the Extraordinary Women of the National Marine Life Center (l-r: Kathy Zagzebski, Kate Shaffer & Adele Raphael) Photograph by Devon Ellington
Kathy suggests taking it one step further. "Use your economic power to reinforce earth-friendly values at the supermarket, mall, and wherever you shop by choosing sustainably-produced products.
"Avoid using single-use plastic anything. Think about the environment in everything you do, and act accordingly."
An operation with such a small staff means everyone takes on multiple responsibilities. "One day I may be taking x-rays of patients," says Kate. "The next I may be giving a tour or education program to a group of students, and the next I may be putting up drywall in the hospital."
"With the new hospital," she continues, "there will be seasonality in the types of patients we treat, and therefore the make-up of my day. For example, sea turtle cold stunning season is in the fall and winter, and we may have a full house of turtles, but we don't see many sea turtles in the spring and summer."
Eleanor the Diamondback Terrapin
Photograph Courtesy of the National Marine Life Center
Caring for the animals is a long, intense process, and not every story has a happy ending. "It is impossible not to get attached to your patients," Kate admits. "The hardest times are when the decision has to be made to euthanize.
It's difficult to come to the decision that it is more humane to euthanize an animal you have cared for, and invested time and resources into saving.
"The important thing is to keep in mind what is best for the animals, and that many of our patients are endangered species. Even though we can't save them all, each patient we are able to rehabilitate affects the entire population. This makes it easier to pick up and continue even after you have lost a patient."
Dedication, long hours, and a small staff could lead to burn-out, but these three women know how to balance their lives.
For Kathy, it means attending conferences. "It's fun to catch up with colleagues all over the country. These conferences also reemphasize, in my mind, the need and opportunity of the National Marine Life Center."
Adele goes to the theatre to unwind; Kate and her husband Matt love to travel and explore new places together when they're not involved in community activities like the Cape Cod Young Professionals, coaching soccer, or scrapbooking.
They all agree that it's the excitement from visiting kids that rejuvenate them. From the fifth graders who choose NMLC as their community leadership service project, selling marine animal-related crafts at the school fair, to the three kids (aged four, six, and eight) who made and sold craft projects all summer to benefit the Center and then brought in the box with the proceeds, the love and support from amazing kids helps fuel the dedication to the Center and its needs.
Spend even a couple of hours at the National Marine Life Center, and in the company of these extraordinary women, and your outlook on the world will change for the better.
National Marine Life Center
located at 120 Main Street
Devon Ellington publishes under a half a dozen names in both fiction and non-fiction.
Her plays are produced in New York, London, Edinburgh, and Australia.
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