The Grey Roost

Sampson Bell

Sampson was a gift to me during a very difficult time in my life. While in Florida visiting my critically ill nephew, Sampson came to live with me. While on the drive home to New Jersey, I stopped in the Nations Capitol to see DC. While there, I observed this bald little creature take the tears from the veterans’ faces as they stroked and loved this innocent baby bird. It was then I decided Sampson would make the perfect healing and teaching companion. Sampson and I volunteered at local schools, scout meetings, memorial services, and town functions, to educate the public on birds and proper care. We even visited the National Guard Aviation Unit, where they joked about making Sampson their mascot Sampson’s middle name was Bell. This was for the helicopter manufacturer that his "pop-pop" maintained and flew with the Army in the Vietnam War, as he does to this day with the NJ National Guard. Where ever we went, Sampson would have a different outfit, weather it was just a red, white, and blue bandana for Guard events, or a Halloween costume for him to fit in with the other kids on Halloween. Since I do not have any biological children, Sampson was my son. His vocabulary was just starting to blossom. One of his favorite phrases was “handsome Sampson” or “Ham Sam” for short. Mine was “ my pop-pop can fly!!” Most of all I miss him calling me “mommy” and telling me He “loved mommy”, when I needed it most

One evening last October, I noticed that Sampson, sounded a little hoarse, as if he were coming down with a cold. At first, I was not too concerned, knowing greys are masters at imitating sounds. After all, Sampson was a robust bird named for his size. When he was only seven weeks old, still a pinfeathered baby, the veterinarian had pronounced him larger than 95 percent of the African grey population. But an appointment for Sampson was made at the Avian veterinarian anyway, just in case. Little did I know it would be the beginning of a medical, financial and emotional ordeal I will never forget, and the events that unfolded would change my world forever. Sampson was tentatively diagnosed with aspergillosis, a fungal infection that causes respiratory problems. The diagnosis of Aspergillosis can be very difficult. Only a tentative diagnosis can be made of the basis of physical findings, a history of environmental conditions, and recent stress. A CBC may show a significant elevated white blood cell count. Aspergillosis spores are widespread in the environment and many birds may carry them in their lungs and air sacks until immunosuppression, such as antibiotics or stress triggers the disease, and it can be extremely difficult to cure. Asper is contracted as the result of inhalation of spores, or oral ingestion, if birds are fed moldy seed. The fungus is capable of penetrating broken skin and eggshells, and is able to infect a developing embryo.

Sampson, would have to undergo stressful treatments, and over the next two months, as Sampson made the rounds of half a dozen avian vets, the bills would pile higher than I ever could have imagined. Sampson underwent three surgeries to remove growths doctors thought might be blocking his airway. In between operations, Sampson would breath a special medicated mist twice a day and took massive doses of oral antifungals, antibiotics, and painful injections. When Sampson could no longer breathe on his own, doctors installed a shunt directly into an air sac via a hole in his body. Without the shunt Sampson struggled to breathe, making terrible gurgling sounds. Once the number of surgeries grew to eight, and it was realized no more could be done, Sampson was sent home to spend his last days of life with me.

Sadly, On Dec. 7, after seven weeks of treatments and 20 days in the animal hospital, Sampson, age 2 1/2 died at home, in my arms as I sang to him, "You Are My Sunshine." The last words he learned and said to me was “It’s ok”, and looking back now, I wonder if he was trying to calm himself, or reassure me, that things would be alright in the end, either way. Sampson fought real hard to stay with us, so he could continue to help humans learn about parrots and how to care for them. He enjoyed meeting and entertaining his neighbors, as well as visiting the local schools.

In his passing, he continued to aid in the research of Aspergillosis, that will hopefully help the Dr’s to find a better cure or aid in preventive medicine. Sampson Bell was a wonderful boy, and is Very sadly missed, by all who have shared his life. He will remain forever in our hearts. We Love you baby boy, always, your Mom and Pop-pop.

Lisa B

for Sampson's story at ParrotChronicles:

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