#TeamWillow

The Booster has closed on Team Willow T-shirts, unfortunately I didn’t meet my minimum requirement for the t-shirts to go to print, but everybody who supported us was refunded. 🙂 I am trying to get something else together, though, so if you are still interested in a shirt or sweatshirt, shoot me an e-mail at finallyforeverafter at gmail dot com to stay in the loop. 

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Lets start at the beginning.

(9/22) Sunday Night: Mike, Shannon, and I headed to the barn to do afternoon chores after the AWESOME surprise baby shower that the barn group threw me. Willow had been out all day, since it was beautiful out. We brought her in, gave her dinner, and I did my usual routine of going over her with her favorite brush while I checked for lumps and bumps. Sure enough…

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Willow, as I’ve learned over the years, is a sweller. Every cut and bump blows up like a balloon. This, though, was alarming not just because of the SIZE but because of the location. Right on the joint. I immediately called the awesome Dr. Robertson (who called me right back) while we scrubbed it up with iodine and kept cold water on the joint. I explained what had happened, and texted her the above pictures. She agreed with me that the location was not good, and she wanted to see her first thing in the morning. I gave her 2 grams of bute and applied Corona ointment. We tried to wrap the joint, but she was REALLY not happy with the idea so I decided that having her kick all night would do more harm then good. She was not lame at all.

(9/23) Monday AM: Willow was stiff, but walked right out of it in the indoor. The swelling had gone down, but the cut was leaking clear fluid (not good, as it was more than likely joint fluid). Dr. Robertson took a look at it, and we agreed that we needed to take some films to see how close the cut was to the joint. We took several films, and they confirmed our suspicions that the abrasion was lying right up next to the joint. We took blood for a white blood cell count, as well as joint fluid samples to send to UK for a cytology (so they would let it sit for 48 hours to see what kind of bacteria was growing in there). Dr. Robertson also took samples for her own cytology/blood work so we could get a jump start on treatment.   UK would take a minimum of 24 hours from when we sent the samples off to START their culture, and when treating a joint infection it’s best to be as proactive and aggressive as possible. We gave her 2 more grams of Bute, and Dr. Robertson wrapped the joint for me.

Monday PM: Dr. Robertson called me and said that from her lab work Willow’s white blood cell count was low. During an infection, the cell count is normally high, however Dr. R was fairly sure that her count was so low because her body was ramping up to fight the infection and had sent the cells to the site of the injury. She recommended that we get Willow to her clinic right away to get her started on IV antibiotics and they would flush the joint first thing in the morning. Within a half hour from the phone call, Willow was on the trailer on her way to the clinic. They put her in the stocks to insert her catheter (to make giving the shots easier, since they had to be given every 6 hours) and gave her her first dose. She was a total champ for the whole process. :) Dr. R said that she would give me a call in the morning after they flushed the joint and I would be allowed to go up and see her when she was awake. They flush the joint (I’ll spare “educational” pictures..it’s gross!) to rid the joint of any debris, as well as give it a high volume of fluid, and break down adhesions. Furthermore, it allows the pH in the joint to return to normal, giving the antibiotics a chance to work their antibiotic magic!

(9/24) Tuesday AM: Dr. R called at about 11 and said that the initial flushing had gone well and I was welcome to go up and see her when I wanted. Apparently she’s become a bit of a celebrity up there. ;) Mike and I talked a little bit about what we were going to do after she was released from the clinic. She was still going to need to be wrapped and medicated, much more aggressively than when she had cellulitis. Lets take just a brief moment to remember that I’m supposed to have a baby in three weeks… k? Mike, while bless him for throwing himself so enthusiastically into the horse husband world, doesn’t know how to wrap. I would prefer he NOT learn on Willow right now.  We decided that we were going to talk to Dr. R about keeping her at the farm (they also run a boarding and lesson program) so that Willow could have the care that she needed. I was speaking to a friend about what we wanted to do, and she recommended a rehab facility about an hour away. I made plans to take a visit out that afternoon and Shannon and I jetted off to see Willow before the appointment.

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She was grumpy and groggy, but still mugged me for a peppermint and let Shannon pet her nose. She has a window in her stall, and really just enjoyed standing and watching the geese in the pond. She can’t quite figure out what those things weird things are! Dr. R said that her cytology was still negative at the 24 hour make, which gives us a 50/50 chance of there being no bacteria in the joint. It has to sit for 48 hours. She said that it was tentatively a good thing, as anything that was growing aggressively would have shown by now. However, we still had 24 hours and I wasn’t allowed to get excited as some bacteria is slow to grow. Once we know exactly what we are dealing with, we can adjust her antibiotics accordingly. Right now she is receiving penicillin and gentamicin as a broad spectrum preventative, as well as banamine to help with pain and swelling.

Tuesday PM: I met with the owner of the rehab facility and was highly impressed. She was clean, organized, and had a WONDERFUL track record with all kinds of injuries. She was very optimistic about Willow’s chances of bouncing back from this and she has the set up to do just about anything that Willow needs as well as two acclaimed vets on staff. The aftercare of this kind of injury is just as important as the initial steps taken, in order for it to be a successful recovery. If the joint gets re-infected, Willow will have to be put down. In order  to give Willow the best shot of bouncing back from this, I know that sending her to Melody at Aurora Farms is the right choice after visiting with her for about an hour. Dr. R agrees with my decision. Thank you so much, Linda!

(9/25) Wednesday AM: Dr. R called me and let me know that Willow’s joint flush went VERY well this morning and that her joint looks fantastic. It’s the first time that I’ve heard her unguarded about her optimism and that’s a wonderful thing! She said that if they are going to do well, then their joints typically look like Willow’s did this morning as far as heat and swelling were concerned. She is still not lame. We both did some squealing on the phone, and I said that I would be up after Shannon’s nap time to visit and say hello. She didn’t say anything about the cytology cultures, but I’m thinking that the end time is much later this afternoon. I haven’t been up yet, but I’m excited to go see her. :) She will be released from the clinic on Friday morning, barring any issues, and will make the trip to Melody’s then.

Wednesday PM: Shannon and I went up to visit Willow after nap time and it was great to see her! I couldn’t even get any good pictures because she was so intent on mugging me for peppermints. Yesterday she could hardly care about them, which, if you know Willow is a bit alarming. Dr. R is beyond pleased with her progress and said that she’s a model patient. She has her last joint flush tomorrow and then she’ll head off to rehab with Melody on Friday morning!

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(9/26) Thursday: Dr. R didn’t give me a call until almost 430, so I didn’t make it out to see the big mare today. Talk about bummed. The good news is, on the other hand, that she is doing just as well as she was yesterday. Can I get a whoop, whoop!? We will be heading to the rehab facility around 1pm tomorrow, and I’m sure that she’ll settle in just as well there as she did at Dr. R’s. She’ll probably like it a bit better, as she won’t be poked and prodded quite as much. 😉 I can’t wait to see my girl tomorrow! We do have t-shirts in the works, if anybody wants to show their support. I’ll update with a mock up and prices as soon as I get it back from the screen printer!

(9/27) Friday: Discharge day! Willow was a total champ, and hopped on the trailer today like a pro (she kind of is, at this point). As long as you let her sniff the ramp and she’s cool with the person at her head, that mare will get on just about anything you ask her too. The giant hay net stuffed full of amazing looking hay probably helped too. Seriously. It smelled so good that I wanted to snag a bite for myself. I gave her some snuggles and a star scritch before hooking her up and we were on our way. I can’t say enough good things about Dr. R and her team. Willow was 100% weight bearing on the injured leg, and even though they weren’t there to say bye, their instructions were clear and concise.  We unloaded Willow at the rehab center after a totally uneventful drive, and got her all settled. She quite happily made herself at home in her HUGE stall. I was so sad to leave her today, but I know that Melody is going to treat her just like one of her own, and that really eases my mind. I’m excited to go up and see her tomorrow. 🙂

(9/28) Saturday: Mike, Shannon, and I already headed out to Melody’s to go see the girl. Melody was awesome and said that she would wait to change the wrap until I got there, so that I could see what was going on underneath. She is a woman after my own heart, I think. 😉 When she took the wrap off, we were both pretty pleased with how things looked. Go Dr. R! The wound itself was clean and you could see all the new skin healing and the swelling was fairly minimal. It’s not something that’s going to resolve right away, and the key is to keep it clean and dry. After we changed her wrap, I got to take her outside for one of her 10 minutes sessions of hand walking. After some huffing and puffing (so typical Willow… I was so happy to see it!) she settled down to chow on the beautiful lawn. She’s still 100% weight bearing on the leg.  Whoop!

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It was go great to get her outside, especially since the weather was so beautiful. She behaved herself perfectly and we had to drag her in when her time was up. You could tell she was happy to be allowed to finally have some time outside. It made me smile. 🙂 I gave her some love, and then we had to head out for the day. I hated leaving her (what else is new, right?) but my spirits are pretty high since she seems to be doing so well with everything. This process would be SO much harder if she weren’t such a willing patient. Everybody keeps remarking on how easy and sweet that she is, and hearing that makes me know that we’re doing the right thing by kicking this things butt. We’ll be back in the ring in no time, I just know it. 🙂 We have the t-shirt design all banged out, and we should be able to get y’all a mock up tomorrow along with a link where you can order if you want. All the support and well wishes mean the world to us!

(9/29) Sunday: I didn’t get to go out to visit Willow today, since we had a TON of stuff that we had to do around the house to get caught up for this week. Things around here kind of exploded in the crazy that was last week, so as hard as it was to not jet out to the farm as soon as I woke up, it was good that we were able to get set for the week! Melody was her usual awesome self and took the time to shoot me a quick e-mail letting me know that everything was great.

(9/30) Monday: Shannon and I got up and on the road early this morning, since we would get to meet another vet on our team, Dr. Beckmann. He was great! We got there just as he was finishing up with another horse, and I was able to sneak in and give Wills some of her favorite wither scritches while we were waiting our turn for him to take a peek.

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I was rewarded by a very lovely happy lip and she gave me a back massage of my own. I gave Dr. B a pretty lengthy run down of everything that had gone on up until that point and then he took her wrap off. While there is still some fluid in the joint, he said that that was to be expected, since we had been so aggressive with the flushing (which was the right thing to do). The best news is that she is still 100% weight bearing on the leg, even though the joint capsule is almost closed up. That means that there isn’t any more fluid then there needs to be. If she becomes lame on it, we would know that we were still dealing with an infection.  I think I’ve learned more about joints this week than I ever thought that I would! He said that overall, we should be ecstatic with how everything looked. I’m still not getting excited, because I don’t want to jinx anything, but it’s great to hear! I got to hand walk her after her wrap was changed, and she was a PISTOL. It was great to see, but we had to put her away a little bit before her time was up since all she wanted to do was stand on her hind legs. Goober. Normally I would be annoyed at her shennanigans, but this time all I could do was laugh and hang onto the end of the lead rope. I guess if she feels good enough to bounce around on her hind legs, it’s safe to say that she’s weight bearing. 😉 All in all it was a great visit and I can’t WAIT to go back and see her on Wednesday!

(10-1) Tuesday: I didn’t get to go up and see Will’s today, but got an e-mail from Melody last night letting me know that all was well. According to my OB, we could be welcoming Charley “any day now” so I let Melody know that my visits might not be as frequent (it’s about an hour trip, one way). She assured me that that was fine and she’d send pictures as well as keep Willow in her Doritos. 🙂 She’s stellar!

(10-2) Wednesday: Shannon and I loaded up and went to see my girl this morning. I just can’t stay away! The barn  was all quiet when we got there, so Shannon hung out in the car with her movie and I gave Willow a good curry/brushing. She looks wonderful, and was even happy to snuggle for a few minutes before she figured out that I didn’t have another apple, then I got the side eye.

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As you can see, her weight and coat look AMAZING.

I know the picture quality is horrible, Homeslice was chasing me all over her stall, and it’s hard to fit such a big horse in such a small camera frame. Forgive me? She loved all the attention (because I’m *sure* she’s oh so attention starved… *eyeroll*) and it was good to spend some ‘normal’ time with her that didn’t include finding a lump or bump or blood or wrapping anything! I wasn’t able to see her wrap get changed, they had scheduled that for this afternoon since I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it up or not, but everything looked totally normal. She’s still sound, and behaving like a bit of a brat for her hand walks. 🙂 ~ T-shirts should be launching today as well. Keep an eye on Facebook, Twitter, or check back in here for the official link. I set my goal rather high, at 250 shirts, but I know we can reach it! Shirts will be $20 each. If I don’t reach my minimum goal of 20 shirts, the campaign will not go forward and everybody who DID order will be refunded. Please share, share, share the link as much as you can! The campaign closes October 29th, and shirts will ship out 2 weeks after that. Thank you again, everybody, for all your support! It means the world to Willow and I. 🙂

(10-3) Thursday: I wasn’t able to get out to see Willow today. The next few days are going to be pretty boring, as we’re just in a holding pattern. My contractions are picking up, and the couple hour round trip makes them worse. I know Willow is in the best of care, though. 🙂

(10-4) Friday: I didn’t get out to see Willow today either. Come on Charlotte!

(10-5) Saturday: I couldn’t take it any longer, and dragged Mike and Shannon out to see my girl. She was looking great, and Mike chased Shannon around while I gave her a good scrub down. Melody had e-mailed me and said that she was getting ready to go out in the small turnout, but she was in when we got there early in the morning. I seized the chance to give her a good pampering and kiss her nose (much to her dismay. 😉 ). I miss that snakey face. She’s looking great! We’re still in a holding pattern, but every day that I go out and she’s still sound is something that I consider a huge win!

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She systematically knocks all my brushes off the railing…

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Selfie Saturday?

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“Come back, Mom… you aren’t done scratching me yet…”

(10-6) Sunday: My Rain Tree Stables group has been SO supportive of Willow and I the whole time we’ve been going through this. I can’t thank them enough! When they asked if they could go visit, I couldn’t say no, so I e-mailed Melody and asked if it would be okay to have a field trip on Sunday. She said that that was fine, so we loaded up into Ivan and off we went on Sunday morning. Willow was out in the small pen and happy as a clam. She delighted to see everybody and instantly started mugging them for apples. Melody was awesome as well and took everybody around to see the property. Willow was sound, sound, sound and quiet which is super important. Nothing is better for them then fresh air and she was able to stay out as long as she stayed sane over the whole thing. 🙂

(10-7) Monday: Well, Dr. B called me this morning after checking Willow out on his rounds and we are officially in the clear!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can I get a whoop, whoop!!?? Whoop!! He said that the wound is totally closed over, and SHE’S STILL SOUND! WHOOP! She gets to have her bandage left off and she is no longer on any kind of antibiotic or bute. We are going to take some x-rays on Friday to see what we are dealing with in terms of arthritis and what our plan will be to keep her comfortable and able to go back to work. We no longer have to worry about infection in the joint, which was our biggest concern up until now. I can’t tell you the amount of relief that I’m feeling at the moment, knowing that my girl will be alright, and that if Charlotte EVER decides to show up (hear me, child!?) we’ll be back in action soon. She’s still going to have some time off (obviously) but I’m setting a goal of being back in the tack by November! WHOOP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(10-8 through 10-10) Tuesday through Thursday: There isn’t a really huge update on these days. I was beyond uncomfortable and wanted to stick close to home. Charlotte didn’t make an appearance, but I didn’t want to bore you all with 4 posts about the same thing. I didn’t make it out to see her, but Melody is great at communicating with me, and assured me that she was doing well and there were no changes.

(10-11) Friday: Dr. Beckmann called me with the results of Willow’s x-rays and said that she has some significant arthritis in the top part of her hock joint. While he didn’t do a full lameness exam, he didn’t think that that would be necessary since I know her well enough that I can tell him what sort of soundness changes have taken place when I can get back on her next. She’s cleared to go back to work, slowly, in 30 days and when she does, we will see how aggressively we need to go in with hock injections. We’ll also x-ray the other hock at that point to see what we are dealing with in there. The only real bummer of the phone call, was that he noticed a calcification on her hock (he used a few big words that I cannot remember) that will most likely kill any chance we have of making it to the FEI rings. We should have no problem with her being sound and comfortable with injections and a supplement through 3rd or 4th, but he doesn’t think that she’ll really be able to sit down and do the things that the upper levels require her to do. Her comfort and happiness mean more to mean than ANY dressage test, so as long as I can walk into the barn and snuggle her face everyday, the FEI ring can wait.

(11-5): Willow is officially HOME! We went this morning after I dropped Shannon off at school and picked her bay booty up. Dr. Beckmann was there as well as Melody when I picked her up, and we were chatting a bit more about everything and he said that we need to get her back into work and working truely underneath herself (or trying) to determine exactly how much or little the arthritis is going to affect her ability to do her job. He also said that she has developed something called “Hunter’s Bump”. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s related to whatever she did that caused her to hurt her hock. Initially I thought that she got kicked, but I’m beginning to wonder if she fell. Hunter’s bump can be caused be caused by pelvic injury. They could still be totally unrelated, but it makes a girl wonder. He said that on the list of things that we’re looking at, it’s at the bottom as far as concerning, but I’m guessing that we can kiss any kind of competitive career goodbye at this point. My biggest concern is making sure that Willow is healthy and happy, in this instance, that means saying goodbye to the show ring. Honestly though, with my girls being so small, I was fooling myself a bit thinking that I would be able to achieve my Bronze medal in the next few years. Now, don’t y’all worry… I WILL achieve my goal. This just gives me more time to work on myself and REALLY be able to knock those scores out the ballpark. Anyways, Willow is happy to be home and settled into her pasture with her new BFF Bella. I’ll post pictures tonight when I get home from feeding. 🙂

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I want to say a huge thank you to everybody for all the good wishes, calls, texts, and prayers. Special thanks to Ashley for the #teamwillow hashtag idea! I know that they play a big part in helping Willow pull through this and they are wonderful for boosting my morale! Willow has a crack team of doctors, nurses, and cheerleaders in place and I’m keeping the faith that she will come out of this on the other side and we can continue our journey together. The stress of not knowing what the next few weeks will bring is something that I don’t wish upon any person and the financial strain on our family is something that we were not expecting this close to having baby Charlotte.

It’s been mentioned by a few people that we start a fundraiser, selling Team Willow/Finally Forever After t-shirts, to help deflect some of the costs of her care and so people can show their support of my big ‘ole sweetheart! I’ll keep everybody updated on if we go through with it or not, and where you can get your shirts once we get them made up. Please keep rooting for her and I’ll keep updating on the page. :)

We love you all!

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 *Cate & Willow*

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