September 24, 2009 01:43 PM

When Dr. Louise Rayment-Dyble X-rayed tiny Twinnie the tortoise after her owner noticed she was straining and pushing up her back legs in pain, she immediately knew it was a life or death situation. “There was this huge bladder stone,” Rayment-Dyble tells PEOPLE Pets of the large blockage that threatened Twinnie’s life. “We had two choices: to put her to sleep or to try and operate and take the stone out.”

But 3-year-old Twinnie, one of many Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoises owned by Lorna Parker of Horsford, England, weighed less than an ounce and the bladder stone itself was 1.5 centimeters in diameter–making it a tough surgery to perform. There was only one thing that could work: “I’d actually spoken to another tortoise colleague who recommended this particular drill from the local DIY store,” says Rayment-Dyble, who runs All Creatures Healthcare, which specializes in care for exotic pets. “It was powerful enough for the job.”

Because the tortoise’s shell and bone underneath are so strong, a powerful but petite drill was needed to cut through so the stone could surgically be removed from Twinnie’s body. “We basically cut a little square piece out of the shell underneath and then sort of flip that back, and took the stone out and then stitch everything back together again,” says Rayment-Dyble, who first told Twinnie’s story to the Daily Mail. “It took us about an hour from start to finish.”

An open and shut case, thanks to a drill that cost about $150 and a little superglue and resin to put the shell back in place. Several weeks post- surgery, Twinnie is back to her old self, feeling much better and hanging out with her siblings. “Twinnie is alive and doing well,” Rayment-Dyble says. “She is happy and active and eating.”

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