This Albino Turtle Lives with an Open Heart, and it’s not a Metaphor; It Beats Right in Front of You

Hope, a one of a kind albino Pink Belly Sidenecked turtle, was born with her heart outside her shell and has captured the hearts of her audience as they follow her through her journey of life.

Her condition is so rare that there isn’t a name for it in veterinary medicine but it is similar to ectobia cortis, a human condition where the heart is located in a different area and partially exposed outside of the thorax, or chest. Despite little Hope’s life-threatening condition, she survives with the help of her owner, Michael Aquilina, in New Jersey.



Hope was given to Aquilina, better known as “Aqua Mike,” by a breeder friend who believed that he had both the passion and the expertise to care for her special condition.

Hope has been in the care of Aquilina since the end of 2018 and he has worked hard to give Hope the longest and happiest life possible. In theory, young Hope’s condition would dramatically decrease her life expectancy yet after just 25 days with Aquilina Hope was showing promising signs. He posts on his Instagram that Hope put on a healthy amount of weight and her growth rings are becoming more apparent.

“Hope has impacted my life in so many ways it actually makes me emotional”


To ensure Hope’s safety and health, Aquilina does everything he can to protect the turtle’s exposed heart and immune system. He posts frequent updates of Hope thriving to his Instagram, featuring pictures of her underbelly for viewers to marvel at.


Hope enjoys her life in her private tank and does many of the activities that other turtles do, like snacking on shrimp, her favorite food, taking a swim in her enclosure, and bathing in the warmth of her lamp.

Many of Aquilina’s followers have offered their help to little Hope, and Aquilina is very considerate in answering any questions people may have on Hope and her condition. Hope has brought people together and created a community of those who care about her condition, while also spreading awareness of animal wellness. Isn’t it cute?

Student, Hipster, Dream-Maker