New City vet reflects on treating Koko the gorilla

Posted: Updated:
NEW CITY -

A New City veterinarian once helped save the life of Koko, the gorilla who had mastered sign language.

Dr. Howard Gittleman says he got a call from Betty White in 2012 asking him to join a medical team to help remove a foreign object that Koko had accidently swallowed.

Most of the doctors involved in the procedure were physicians for humans, so Gittleman says he had to adjust to working with a gorilla.

"For me it's a completely different world," Gittleman said. "They are so human and of course she is so big, so from that perspective it was quite an experience to be that close to something that is larger than us."

Eventually Gittleman and the team were able to successfully remove the object from Koko.

After hearing about Koko's death last week, the New City vet says working with the famed gorilla is an experience he won't soon forget.

"I was humbled by the experience and the opportunity to be a part of that," Gittleman said.

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