We have been walking a very hard road lately. Mr. Smiles had 4 unexpected surgeries over a 9-day period, plus 2 ER visits, and was hospitalized for 9 days. The short version of “why?” is that he is having complications from the big surgery he had last August on his liver. Yes, it is pretty late for complications, but Mr. Smiles always seems to go with whatever is listed as the least likely thing to happen medically. In fact, they have only ever dealt with this specific complication 2 times in the over 100 year history of the pediatric hospital. Sadly, it is still not fixed and he will need 1 more surgery in the near future. But for now, he is at home trying to rest, recover, and strengthen.
For those of you that are new to Willow Creek Farm, our 4-year-old son has had major medical issues his whole life. When you add the four surgeries we just went through, he has had 18 surgeries in his life. Plus 2 MRIs under anesthesia, and many many hospitalizations and ER visits. He has walked a hard road his whole life, and yet he is always so full of joy and peace – he makes anyone and everyone smile when they see him – thus his blog name “Mr. Smiles.”
The thing about difficult times and crisis is that the rest of life doesn’t just stop and wait for you to deal with the crisis. The world keeps turning, and life on the homestead goes on full-speed ahead. We are so blessed that the older kids are so capable around the farm and enjoy it too. They did an amazing job “holding down the fort” while we were away. They kept the gardens watered, weeded, and did some planting too. The animals were all fed, watered, cared for, and milked. The milk was either made into cheese or frozen to be made into cheese later (only sheep milk can do that). They did great…but there was one animal on the homestead that caused a lot of drama while we were gone – Pansy the goat.
A few weeks ago, Mr. Smiles had some symptoms and then some lab values that showed trouble. He had an MRI under anesthesia, and we found out the results, which led them to scheduled him for surgery two days later. As we were packing the car to head to the hospital, the kids were doing barn chores and informed us that Pansy was not doing well. She didn’t want to eat and her milk production had plummeted. It had only been a week or so since Pansy’s doeling, Pearl, had died suddenly of enterotoxemia. Pansy had been somewhat “depressed” since that incident, but now she definitely seemed to be having some medical issues. We called, but the vet was out of town until the next day. We were in a hurry to get going, so we gave her some CMPK, thinking it might be calcium related and knowing that wouldn’t hurt her, and we headed out – expecting to be back that evening because it was supposed to be outpatient.
Things didn’t go as planned and Mr. Smiles was admitted to the hospital to await his second unexpected surgery the next day. The next morning, Pansy was still not doing well. The vet headed to our homestead and the kids helped him treat Pansy. We were in the PACU, with Mtn Man cuddling Mr. Smiles post-op, while I talked on the phone to the vet trying to understand what was going on. She was ketotic, because she hadn’t been eating enough. But ketosis causes lack of appetitie, which then means she doesn’t eat and thus gets more ketotic. Viscious cycle. He didn’t know why she was not eating to begin with – there was nothing obviously wrong, but he treated her with several different things for the ketosis and left instructions for the kids on what to do for her. Thankfully, my friend who is an ER nurse was staying with the kids and was able to administer the injections she needed – something the kids can’t do (yet).
Two days later we were released from the hospital, only to go back a few hours later to the ER with complications from unexpected surgery #2. They did a temp fix and sent us home to come back 24 hours later for unexpected surgery #3. While at home, Pansy seemed to be improving and Mtn Man did her treatment. Once we were back in the hospital, we got a call that she was doing worse again. We still didn’t really have a cause for all this, we were treating symptoms, not the cause itself. And it wasn’t working well. She didn’t want to eat and was visibly losing weight. I tried to call the vet, but he was out of town for several days. So I called the goat breeder, who I had been talking with through all of this. We decided that there was a chance that this wasn’t medical – that she was depressed because of the loss of her baby and cut back her eating because of that, which then caused the ketosis and the medical cycle to start.
Meanwhile, Mr. Smiles was having complications from unexpected surgery #3, and we were stuck in the hospital for another day. We decided to have them give her a shot of antibiotics – just in case – as a last ditch effort to try to deal with whatever it was. But the next morning she wasn’t any better. By then, Mr. Smiles was doing well enough to go home for awhile to recover and stabalize before his next surgery.
The breeder lives an hour from the hospital, and 3 hours from our homestead, so we decided, as a very last-last ditch effort to save Pansy, that we would bring another goat home to her to see if it was behavioral. Maybe with another goat there she would start eating again. So on our way home from the hospital, we met the breeder along the way and she gave us a 6-month-old buckling. She banded him (to wether him) in the parking lot as we switched him over to our vehicle and we headed home. We chose to do a buckling (now a wether) not because we plan to keep him long-term, but because we wanted to see if the issue was behavioral or medical without potentially killing a milk doe. The buckling is intended for meat, so if what Pansy had was medical, and contagious, then there wouldn’t be the same amount of loss as if we brought in a milk doe and she got sick from Pansy. If the situation was indeed behavioral, then she would improve with the wether there and then we could give him back to the breeder and buy a milk doe to be her friend and a productive member of the flerd (flock of sheep, herd of goats).
Let me just pause here to say that it was pretty funny as we were driving home. There we were – exhausted, weary, and bleary-eyed, heading home after a ridiculously hard marathon of surgeries and complications and hospital stay with our young son, emotionally shot and just barely holding on to hope that things would get better……..and we have a buckling in a crate in the back of our car. Talk about homesteaders. We are so dedicated to our sweet goat Pansy (and really…more importantly, to our sweet daughter who desperately loves the sweet goat), that we were stopping on our way home to get a buckling. A very stinky buckling…in a crate in our van…with the windows all rolled down to try to make it more tolerable. We just looked at eachother and laughed, in that somewhat delirious way that one laughs when they are so exhausted they can’t even think straight. Only in our life would this type of thing happen. Sigh.
Anyway, back to the story…
We knew that for if the wether was going to help it would probably take a few days to see a difference. So we continued the prescribed treatments. We also got a hold of the vet, and he added a few more things to try, because really at this point we were just grasping at anything and everything that might be wrong. He said he would be available to come do bloodwork in a couple of days.
Meanwhile, just over 24 hours after coming home from the hospital, we had to head back to the ER because Mr. Smiles was still not doing well. We were admitted, again, and the next morning they did unexpected surgery #4. The kids and our friend continued to do Pansy’s treatments. The next morning, as we were meeting with Mr. Smiles’ team of specialists, the vet was at the homestead with the kids collecting blood samples to do labwork on Pansy.
We are now home, with Mr. Smiles doing much better than he has been in weeks (SO hopeful that surgery #4 finally helped the issue!). Pansy is still slowly falling behind. We are awaiting the blood test results to see what to do next with her and still hoping that having a goat friend will help pull her out of it.
It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks – to say the least. We continue to watch and wait with both Mr. Smiles and Pansy as we walk the hard parts of the road of life and homesteading.