Saturday, July 09, 2011
Just wanted to share with all my fellow "Sparkers" and Spark Friends a photo of me with my first ride on our 2 year old filly, Lexi. Lexi has been with a trainer for 60 days, now, learning the basics of carrying a rider and a saddle, and handling herself with the weight of a rider on her back. So often, we don't think of the adaptations a horse must make with his/her movements when there is a rider on their back, and they are still young. Even at age 2, when most horses (at least the stockhorse breeds) are considered adults, they still have some growing to do. They have not reached the full bulk and weight of their body yet, so you don't want to ride them too hard, just enough to get them started on the right path.
In the above picture, we are going at a "trot" which is a 2 beat gait just one speed up from a walk. That is our trainer, Steve, up on the fence right behind me, and his wife, Amanda, in the background. If you will notice, Lexi is not wearing a bit. Steve had a bit in her mouth, and then noticed that it seemed to be hurting her. He took the bit out and started riding her again with just a bosal, and she did better.
Steve suggested we take Lexi to the vet and get her mouth checked out. He felt sure that she had some new teeth coming in, "wolf teeth" so called because they are pointed and often sore when the bit touches them. They are very small teeth but most of the time must be removed to help the horse be comfortable with a bit in their mouth.
So, yesterday morning I loaded Lexi up in the trailer and took her to the vet clinic. Sure enough, upon examination, the vet found that Lexi indeed had 2 upper wolf teeth coming in, and they were very sore to the touch. I was surprised, as it is a rare thing for a filly to have wolf teeth, though they are usually present in colts. So, the vet put the dental brace on Lexi after tranquilizing her, and injected lidocaine and began working at pulling those teeth!! They had very long roots so it took him a while, then, he filed down the sharp points on her teeth. Since I already had her at the vets, and was planning on hauling her frequently, I also had him draw a Coggins test on her. It is a state law mandated test for Equine Infectious Anemia. You are not supposed to transport your horse anywhere without a negative Coggins test, but that is a whole other story! I also had her vaccinated for rabies and VEWT, so she is good to go, now!
We hope to ride Lexi twice a week with the trainer at his ranch, and I will practice at home whatever lessons he gives me so that Lexi and I can get used to being a team. For the time being, though, Lexi is getting a few days off, because her mouth will be sore. Poor girl! It is taking her longer to eat her grain because she is chewing so carefully! She is to have no bit in her mouth for at least a week, the vet says, but we will probably give her at least 2 weeks. There is no rush, since she is so easy to control you can ride her with just her halter.
Yaayyyy! I finally got another photo to download! This is a side shot of Lexi and I. If you look closely, you can see her spots. Notice her eyeliner! (That is all natural on her, though some owners of Paint horses have it tatooed on their horses!) I hope to get us going well enough to compete in some Competitive Trail Rides maybe early next year!
Wish us luck!
Wednesday, July 06, 2011
Yesterday, my brother Steve, to whom I gave the stem cells, called me on my cell phone.
He wanted to let me know how well his body is responding to the transplant. His white cells, which were absolutely zero, are now up in the hundreds of thousands! His neutrophils (disease fighting cells) were also WAY increased from almost nothing! My cells are starting to take hold in his body which is so amazing to me!
He said he is beginning to feel much better and was able to get up and walk in the halls of the hospital without tiring out too much! The doctors are amazed at his progress, and say if he keeps progressing at this rate, he could be released from the hospital in a couple of days!
I told him about all the people praying for him and he wants me to thank all of you! He says that he got very little of the mucusitis which causes the lining of his mouth to slough off (caused by the chemotherapy they gave him to wipe out his immune system so that mine could take over) People usually require feeding via hyperal (IV solution) at this time, but he didn't need it, was able to keep on eating! The doctors say that they have never seen anyone before him have such a mild case, PTL!
Just wanted to post this update, as I promised so many of you that I would keep you informed! again for all your prayers!
Thursday, June 30, 2011
As many of you know, who have been following our story, I recently donated Stem Cells to my brother to help him with a complete cure of his disease. He had an extremely rare blood condition called myelofibrosis which could (and did) start to convert to leukemia at any time.
This began about 2 years ago when he was diagnosed. At the beginning, all of us (there were 5 kids in our family, so 4 plus Steve) went through compatability testing. The chances for a match were not in his favor, you only have a 25% chance with each of your siblings for a good match. Well, it was a month or two before I got the call, telling me that I WAS a match for Steve, in nearly every way. The only way he could have had a closer match is if he had an identical twin. I was very happy to hear this news, as I had prayed before testing that I would be a match and be able to supply these cells for him. The center that did the testing called me first to give me the news, so I got to call my brother and tell him. That was certainly an emotional moment for both of us!
Time went by and Steve was holding his own with the disease. Not getting better but no worse, either. This went on until December of 2010, when Steve decided that right then, we should go ahead and get the transplant done while he was still feeling well. So, we all flew to Seattle together and had preliminary health testing and psychological testing done.
While there, I found that I had a problem with my parathyroid gland oversecreting and causing an abnormally high blood calcium level. They consulted with an Endocrinologist and he diagnosed the problem up there. They would not do the transplant while we were there that time, because of my condition. They sent us home with a date to return 3 months later after I got my condition corrected. I was referred to an Endocrinologist here in Fort Worth, who in turn, referred me to a surgeon who specialized in surgery on the Thyroid and Parathyroid. On February the 22, he removed half of my parathyroid gland and the situation was solved.
Steve was still feeling very well in March and April, so wanted to put the transplant off for a while and try to work some more. This went well till his platelet count suddenly started dropping precipitously, and he required transfused platelets. His body was "eating" these up, to the point where the transfusions were useless. Things were looking pretty bad till his doctor started him on high doses of prednisone, and suddenly his platelet counts began to rise again. The only trouble was, he is diabetic, type 1, and this caused his blood sugars to be nearly uncontrollable.
So, once again we all flew to Seattle the middle of May to do the transplant. Had all the preliminary work done again, and I flew back home to await the notification of the actual time for the transplant. My brother flew me up there again when the doctors gave him the word, but it was postponed on the day I arrived because they had found the leukemic cells in his bone marrow at the last minute and had to figure out how to treat that.
I flew back home.............Got pretty good at flying as before all these trips, I was scared to death to step on an airplane!
This last time I got the word and flew up to Seattle SEA-TAC airport one last time on June 16th. Steve had gone into the hospital that very day and started the tough chemotherapy to wipe out his immune system. The morning of the 17th, Friday, I received my first Neupogen injections. Because I required a dose of 3 mls, they would only give 2 mls in each site, so I had to get 2 injections every day. I chose the first ones in the back of each arm. Boy, was that a mistake! I felt like a mule had kicked me in each arm for 6 hours afterwards. The nurse giving the shots that first day and for the weekend, told me that I shouldn't feel a thing! She was wrong, I found out later, from other nurses. Also, later that day after the first shots I had some nausea, which I was not told to expect. The only thing I was warned about was aching and pain in my long and flat bones of which I had plenty! The shots went on every day for 5 days, (after that, I got 2 each day in my abdomen, which I didn't feel at all) along with daily blood draws for labwork. The first day after the shots my counts jumped way up there, which was the response they were hoping for.
Meanwhile, the pain in my hips and shoulder blades became so bad that Sunday night I could not lie down to sleep for the throbbing. On Monday, I was given oxycodone to help with the pain, and it did, so that I could get some rest. Wednesday, the 22nd was the first day of collection. I went to the 5th floor of the Clinic and there, was put in a hospital bed, told to relax while I had a huge needle stuck in each arm! It wasn't bad at all after the initial stick..........and I watched a movie during collection, which that first day took about 3 hours. The blood was drawn out through my left arm, went through a machine which separated out my stem cells, then went back into my right arm. Really I didn't feel a thing after the initial stick. I was to find out later that day whether or not adequate numbers of stem cells had been obtained. They called me at 6 PM that evening and told me to show up tomorrow for another round, as they had obtained 3.7 million the first time and needed a minimum of 5 million cells.
I arrived up there again at 11:00 on Thurday morning, once again after receiving another 2 shots of neupogen in my abdomen. Went through the whole thing again. I must say that the nurses were very nice and very good at what they did. The nurse who collected my cells on Thursday had been doing that procedure for many, many years and said my cells looked textbook perfect! (That made me feel better) I found out later on Thursday that the number of cells collected that day was 2.3 million so they had 6 million cells to give my brother. I took the shuttle over to the University of Washington Medical Center where my brother was that day, and visited with him while he got my cells, which made the whole thing very special.
Friday morning I woke up with lots of pain in my left side. I mean I could hardly turn my head, it caused pain there. I was scheduled to fly home that day at 10:15 Am but after I
returned from my labs I woke my niece up and called the nurse at the clinic, and told them about the pain. My nurse said to come in right away, and my niece went with me, and cancelled the flight. The PA examined me and sent me for a CT scan of the chest and pelvis to see what was going on, but they were pretty sure it had to do with my spleen, they just didn't know exactly what. So, I had a CT scan done with contrast and they discovered that my spleen was greatly enlarged (which they expected, the shots caused that) but also that areas of my spleen had been deprived of oxygen by blood vessels being blocked by overlarge cells and caused parts of my spleen to "die off". The way the doctor explained it to me, is like when a person has a heart attack, that part of their heart that is deprived of oxygen dies off. The good news was that there is no long term health indication for me, as you really don't need your spleen and only a very small part of mine was damaged. But Wow!! Did it hurt?!!!
The doctor advised me to stay in Seattle that weekend of the 25th and 26th so they could keep an eye on me. He said this particular occurence had never happened to another donor in the whole 11 years that he had been performing these transplants! They did know that it COULD happen, but was so rare that it was not even considered a probability to warn donors about. I stayed in Seattle that weekend and had one bout with nausea from the oxycodone they gave me for pain, so spent part of Saturday in the clinic. They gave me some Compazine which took care of the nausea and I was cautioned to do absolutely NOTHING on Sunday, just kick back and let my body heal.
The pain did not really improve much till Monday and I saw the doctor that morning and he said I could go home. I flew home Monday but soon found that walking across the airports and carrying bags made me very short of breath due to the pain. It hurt every time I took a deep breath, so I had been avoiding deep breaths since Friday!!
I have taken this week off from work to heal. I still, every once in a while, get a pain in my left side, but have not taken any pain medicine for 2 days now and am able to sleep.
I called my brother yesterday (it was his birthday) and he says he is still feeling well, but his WBC's are at zero. My cells are not supposed to start taking hold till 10 days to 2 weeks post infusion. Today is the 8th day. So, we should know something by early next week, at the latest.
In spite of all the surgery and setbacks and pain, it has all been worth it! To know that I have maybe helped my brother be cured of his life threatening disease is SO gratifying!
I would do it all again.........................
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Well, it is official. I am leaving for Seattle again this coming Thursday afternoon, the 16th. Will be flying Southwest Airlines this time from Love Field in Dallas. I have never flown out of Love Field before but Matt said he didn't mind, so I will have a new adventure!
I have also never flown Southwest Airlines before, but I have always wanted to. I know that they don't charge you a fee to check your baggage like everyone else does. I will have layovers in Albuquerqe, NM both ways, but it shouldn't be too bad, as I am sticking with one airline instead of changing airlines like I did in LA, the last time I flew up there.
My niece called and said the transplant is scheduled for the 3rd week in June, I will be getting shots for 4 days prior to the collection of the stem cells, and then another on the day of the actual collection. These injections will stimulate the stem cells to move out of the bone marrow and into my peripheral circulation so that they can be collected by the aphoresis machine. I will have a needle in each arm.........The blood will circulate through the machine and then back in to my body via the second line. All very scientific!! I guess the collection will take about 3 hours, during which time I can't move my arms much, as they will both have IV's in the bend of the arm (antecubital space)
So, my brother will probably start chemo the day I get there or the day after. It will all be very interesting. I just hope the transplant works for him, and gives him a long, happy life. I am happy to do this for him! When we were all tested (Steve has 3 brothers and two sisters including me) I prayed that I would be a match, and here I am! My prayers were answered!!
I will keep you posted on what happens as time goes on.
Thanks, my friends, for your support!
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
I am leaving in the morning for Seattle, Washington. I am going there to donate Stem Cells to my brother, who needs a transplant to cure his blood disease. It is a rare disease, only 1600 people a year get it. It is not known what causes it.
All of us kids were tested to see if we matched, but only I did match. That was fortunate, because with each sibling, your chances of matching are only 25%! We match so well that the only way we could match better is if we were identical twins.
I will fly up tomorrow, and have blood tests again on Friday, along with ANOTHER physical. When I went up May the 10th through the 14th, I had extensive blood work and a physical done then. They want to be sure that I am absolutely healthy!
On June 1st, I will be hooked up to the aphoresis machine, with a needle in each arm. My blood will flow out of me and through the machine, which will collect my stem cells. It will then flow back into the other arm. This procedure is expected to last about 2 hours. They will then take the cells and put them into my brother. He will have been prepared for this by receiving 6 days of chemotherapy which will start tomorrow. It will kill off his immune system enough to allow my cells to get a good start in him.
During the period immediately after the transplant, he will be watched closely for signs of infection or of Graft VS. Host disease (in lay terms, rejection of the graft of my cells.) If all goes well, my cells will grow in his body and restore his blood to normal.
So, prayers are needed for us while I am there, especially for Steve, my brother.........that all goes well. Thanks for listening.............
Steve and me at his daughter's wedding
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