MESA, Ariz. - “Typically we can make an incision in front of the back leg, because this tortoise is so large we had to do a plastronotomy because it was too large,” said Dr. Heather Bjornebo with the Arizona Exotic Animal Hospital.

A plastronotomy is cutting a door into the undershell of a tortoise. Dr. Bjornebo is very familiar with the surgery, but not usually on the scale of this tortoise named Hardrock.

“He had had the stone for several years and he started finding it uncomfortable,” she said. “When he would go to the bathroom, he would grunt and strain.”

The owners of the 43-year-old reptile brought him to the Arizona Exotic Animal Hospital in Mesa where Dr. Bjornebo took an x-ray.

“It was pretty big on x-ray,” she said. “It didn't really sink in how big it was until we actually had him open.”

Hardrock had a massive bladder stone.

“It was actually so large that I had to get on a stool to get leverage to lift it,” she said.

Once removed, the stone was as thick as the height of a dry erase marker.

Dr. Bjornebo said the surgery was not only a success but that Hardrock is doing just fine.

“I think he felt so much better getting that out of his body, he didn't care that he was a little bit sore,” she said. “He was just glad to have it gone by then.”