Friday, May 06, 2011


Coming Clean

It has been over a month since I have sat at this computer and given you a blog. It has not been for lack of topics. Or contributions and efforts by The "Other" Herd, as I call this remarkable team of volunteers. Or antics by the horses. Or horses' lives saved. Or this weather! No, there have been plenty of stories to tell you. My lack of writing has come from my lack of spirit.

And it is just this morning with the sunshine bright and warm. And the yard growing green so quickly. And the flowers beginning to peep their timid, frightened little heads out of the ground. And the horses shedding every single last winter hair. It is just this morning that I need to come clean to you and explain.

It all started so innocently. On February 5th this last winter. A very ordinary morning. Hooking everyone. Finding Liz-Beth in the hay. Taking her halter and lead rope out to her to assess the situation and to talk with her. Get a read on her level of energy and frustration. Could I rock her up? Or did I need to retrieve the dreaded skid loader? I was standing talking with Liz-Beth. Simply standing in the hay. Having a conversation with dear, patient Liz-Beth.

POP!I found myself in the hay crying like a baby. My right knee had simply exploded in pain. After getting Liz-Beth righted, I found my way to the telephone and called for help. This was the start of it all.

It seems the tendons and the ligaments in my right knee finally gave out after years of hard work. Oh, and three solid kicks from three separate horses over the past two years. A trip to the emergency room on that day confirmed the need for a surgeon, and so I visited a doctor who ordered the scope procedure. And on February 17th, I began the journey to heal and recover. By Easter, he said. By Easter I would be close to 100% again. By Easter.

Six weeks after the procedure, I went to this surgeon and said, "Something is wrong with my knee." The use of pain pills was once again a normal and mandatory routine. My knee was shooting pains up my leg. The swelling had returned and was getting greater each day. "Something is wrong with my knee," became my mantra.

"Your knee is arthritic and so all bets are off." I was told to slow down and wait another thirty days. And so I did slow down. And the lists for these dedicated volunteers became longer. And I recruited assistance for nigthly chores since I was doing my best to slow down, as ordered.

Thirty days later, the pain was worse and the swelling was visible to anyone who simply looked at my leg. "Is that your knee in there?" people would ask. An injection was attempted which sent me over the edge! Pain, extreme swelling, heat, and an increase in the shooting, jabbing pains heading up my leg. Time for a new doctor.

I found a new surgeon from references. He watched me walk down the hallway into his examining room and said, "I know what's wrong with your knee." We spent the next five minutes in role reversal. He told me what my knee felt like and I confirmed his statements. This man knew what was going on in my knee. He knew! And then he explained it to me.

In women (not men) over 50 (not under) with a touch of arthritis, the blood flood disruption to the knee during the scope procedure needs to be monitored and precautions need to be taken. Physical therapy and exercise after the procedure are paramount. The blood flow must be restored promptly and maintained. The risk of not doing so could create a condition where the marrow in the leg bones begins to decay. The common name for the condition is "marrow decay".

As I listened to this man, I thought back over everything I had done to create the condition. No physical therapy. No exercises. Walking only "as tolerated". I could recall the very date that the marrow decay had begun. The most common symptom of the condition is the shooting pain generated by the decaying bone.

The MRI and X-Rays he took confirmed his suspicions. My tibia has a long, wide white spot of decay covering the entire top of the bone. My femur has a large white spot of decay on the lower inside of the leg. And yesterday, I learned that the femur also has cracks in that area of the bone since the decay has weakened the ability of the bone to sustain weight and pressure.

My initial reaction was to cut to the chase and replace the knee. "Get on with it! Get me healing once and for all! I'm tired of the pain and the lack of working in the barns! Do you know what I do for a living?"

But this man knows of Refuge Farms and he knows what I do. He is a horse owner. He listened to me cry as I felt sorry for myself and not being able to hook and feed, clean barns, and rescue! I believe he saw the emotional side as well as the physical side. And his advice: "Trust me, Sandy. For what you do, you will be much happier with your own knee rather than a replacement. Let's try to save your knee."

He prescribed aggressive physical therapy and gave me orders on how NOT to walk. On how to still go into the barns (only once a day) "to fill your heart", as he said. And then he asked me to find homes for his two horses. He asked me to give my knee some time to try to recover before we jumped to a full replacement.

So, I am sitting here - literally - giving my knee everything I can. Good, high protein foods. Exercise as prescribed by the therapists. Ice. Elevation. Rest. Only 20% weight bearing when I do move. And a ton of prayer. And in all of this sitting, I have been lower than I believe I have been since the crossing of my dear Sister, Donna Vye.

The lawn is growing! The Memory Beds are a mess! The barns are filthy! The place needs work to recover from winter! The fence needs work! And then there were the plans for the demolition of the old barn! And the Tenth Anniversary Open Barn! And the publicity work! My mental state has been poor, to be generous. I have spent the last two weeks seeing only what needs to be done. And it was only yesterday that I looked past all of that and saw what is being done. And perhaps, just now, I am seeing the lessons to be learned from this journey.

I see horses quietly grazing in the pasture. And returning to the round bales of hay that are ready for them. Because these volunteers arrived and dropped the bales for them. Whenever asked.

I see feed tanks filled with feed ready to be served to the horses. Because volunteers took the truck and got the feed and then returned and unloaded 2,000 pounds of horse feed. Whenever the tank gets low.

I see Gracie sleeping in the deep sawdust bed of her stall. With her blanket on. With fresh water and feed in front of her. In clean shavings. Because an assortment of volunteers arrive every evening - after their long days - to care for Gracie.

I see Liz-Beth coming into the barn for dinner. Every night. To be blanketed or brushed. And fed. Because when these volunteers arrive every evening - after their long days - and they also feed Liz-Beth.

I see stock tanks filled with water. I see blankets on PONY! as he needs them. I see Sophie getting fed and brushed. And I see Dudely getting fed. I see the dogs being brought back into the house and loved.

I see swarms of volunteers here to set up for the Antique and Garage Sale. I see them returning again tomorrow for more of the same.

And I see these faces as they turn to me and ask, every single time, "Is there anything else that we can do for you? Is there anything else that you need?"

My spirit left me a few weeks ago. I was defeated and angry and feeling so very sorry for myself. I was crying for the horses I could not save. And I was afraid of losing this leg.

This morning I am still afraid and I still have periods of anger. I try so hard not to feel sorry for myself. And I save as many horses as I can from this very computer and the telephone. As slowly as this knee is recovering, my spirit is returning with it. How can it not?

When I close my eyes at night, I utter a prayer of thanksgiving for those people we call "volunteers". Tears of gratitude roll for these Human Beings who arrive - some in foot casts themselves! - to care for this place and these horses. Who show their dedication to our Missions by living it. They are strengthening the weak. Binding up the crippled. And helping a lost one find her way back. They are caring for me as much as for these horses.

So, today I am coming clean. I have stories to tell you but I have not had the spirit to key them. I have not been able to pull myself up, spiritually, to get out of this hole I have put myself in. Until this morning. This morning, by coming clean with all of you, I am telling myself I must begin to heal. Not just my leg but my spirit. And so I am. I am going to do my very best.

Someday I will try to find the words or the ways to thank these friends of mine. These people we call "volunteers". To tell them how I look forward to their arrival every day! They are the bright spot in my day! They come into the house and sit with me and it is pure medicine for my soul. They tell me of their day and they tell me of the antics in the barns on this night. They fill me with their stories. And they hug me good night. They have become my family.

The least I can do for them is to heal. Inside and out. And so, by coming clean, I am beginning that journey. But only with their support.

I am afraid for my leg. I am afraid of how long this will drag on before it becomes evident what the next step is. But I am taking care to limit the weight on the leg. And to give the weight of this place to those who are stepping up to take it.

I am such a wealthy woman. I tell people that this knee must have a purpose. That there are lessons to be learned here. And maybe, I'm just now stumbling upon one of them . . .

In gratitude and with deep appreciation,

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