When we left Maine Veterinary Referral Center on April 11 we were given an appointment for the following Monday, April 18 during which Dr. Potthoff would review all the lab results and we could discuss treatment options.She was exhausted after her nearly 7 hour day, light anesthesia and 3 hours travel time. My husband and daughter carried her in because it was dark, cold and she was clearly struggling. We laid her on the sofa and she took a brief power nap but then got up to have dinner ~ a definite plus sign. We assisted her outside to go potty then back to laying on the sofa.
The next day she seemed somewhat recovered but still stayed primarily in the great room. Meanwhile I had set up a corner of the room as my “Command Center”; laptop, notepads, markers and other electronics. I wanted to learn as much as possible about the pros and cons of stem cell therapy and there was a wealth of information on various veterinarian school websites, private veterinary practices, and bio tech websites. To be honest I tried to avoid the bio techs because at the end of the day they were promoting their product. I also began to explore the world of You Tube, something I’d never really done before. I found a plethora of videos posted by dog owners, veterinarians and bio techs. My poor family had to endure hours of watching You Tube videos on television via our Roku. Some were made by vets and owners in Italy, Russia and Spain. Couldn’t understand them but to be able to “see” an actual dog before and after aided greatly in my research. I learned so much that I was filling up documents faster than I dreamed possible. I also had things written down in notebooks and tapped out on my iPad mini. A regular information factory happening in what my daughter was now calling Command Central. I discovered that in addition to the neurosurgeon, Sasha’s specialty care practice, Portland Veterinary Specialists, also offered stem cell therapy. The difference between the two practices was the turn around time. The procedure PVS used was the dog was put under anesthesia, cells were harvested and sent overnight to the lab for processing. You return in 48 hours and your dog is put under light sedation and infused with the processed cells via IV and often their affected joints are directly injected with platelet rich plasma, also called PRP. It’s derived from the dog’s own blood therefore safe and has been extremely beneficial in treating a variety of issues. Dr. Potthoff had a slightly different set up in that he had a processing lab within his facility. The dog comes early in the morning, put under general anesthesia, and adipose tissue is harvested from an incision made in their abdomen. They are given medicine via IV to reverse the sedation and rest quietly in the treatment area for several hours during which time the harvested adipose tissue (fat) is processed and ready to be infused via IV. There are several components to stem cell therapy and Sasha will be receiving two. First off, it’s autologous (cells are harvested from her own body) therefore little chance of rejection. After they are processed and treated, she will receive the first component which is the IV infusion that spreads the stem cells throughout her body where they navigate to the areas needed. The second component is where they are integrated into the PRPs which are injected directly into the affected areas (knees) by a team orthopedic veterinarian. I also opted to have extra cells harvested and sent to the bio company for storage in the event she needs an infusion in the future. In my opinion it’s easier on her than to put her under general anesthesia again and withdraw them at a later date. They lightly sedate the dog again for both the IV infusion and the direct injection of PRPs . Despite being very comfortable with the staff at Portland Veterinary Specialists, I decided that I wanted to go with Dr. Potthoff’s method only because it meant less car time for Sasha. At the same time I set up my “center” I began to increase Sasha’s oral prednisone as directed by Dr. Potthoff. Within 2 days the difference was truly uncanny! I couldn’t believe the improvement in Sasha’s mobility as she was acting and walking almost normal. Better than she’d been in weeks. No bowel incontinence either . Don’t know if I’ve already mentioned it but Sasha no longer squatted to urinate but stood. That started mid March so I began watching to see if it continued or if she resumed squatting. The change was literally like day & night. I usually spent anywhere from 10 – 12 hours daily online, devouring every piece of legitimate data I could. I also waded into the SARDS arena and started a new set of books and lists for that. I’d leave my perch long enough to shower and change my clothes once a day and that was it. My wonderful family picked up the slack by cleaning, cooking and doing laundry. I also turned off phone ringers as I didn’t want to be disturbed. I was on a mission! Sasha and I spent most evenings awake in the great room until 2 or 3 am. Meanwhile Dr. Potthoff called every few days with a new lab result ~ all were negative for infection or tick borne illnesses. He was amazed when I told him of her increased mobility and no further “walking poops”. Instead of taking her in on Monday, April 18 for a progress exam, we decided to schedule her SCT for Tuesday, April 19.
At the same time I was still terribly saddened by her blindness; hard to believe it’d been 8 days since she lost her vision. I made an appointment with the veterinary ophthalmologist from PVS who was at their other location but the first opening wasn’t until April 25. I told them that the neurosurgeon had sent an updated report so the ophthalmologist would be in the loop when she saw Sasha. A few hours later they called and asked if Sasha could come on April 22 instead as the doctor might want to do some diagnostics. Of course I said yes but asked that they please email me a high-end amount for testing so I would be prepared when we came. I was proud to see that Sasha had mastered both up and down the 4 front deck steps. She continued to be a strong trooper! Whenever Dr. Potthoff called I told him of her continued improvement and overall perkiness after resuming her former prednisone dose. He suggested I hold off taking her to the ophthalmologist until she’d been back on the prednisone for a while and received the stem cells because as quickly as her sight vanished it might return. Time would tell but that was a delay I wasn’t willing to take. Too much time had already elapsed; I needed a diagnosis.
Over the days leading up to “SCT Day” Sasha spent nearly two hours outside in half hour increments on Thursday but on Friday was a bit off. Sasha went outside a few times but wasn’t as active and lively as she was on Thursday. In hindsight I think that 2 hours (even though in 30 minute increments) was too much, too soon. Usually she likes being in the back when Dad cleans up the brush from winter but Friday she looked uncomfortable. I brought her inside and as the afternoon faded into early evening gave her Tramadol for discomfort. Looking forward I decided to alternate active days with rest days with the exception of her massage and range of motion exercises which were done several times daily.
Little did she know Mom had a plan of action that I hoped to implement within the next two days. Perhaps if she did she might not have been so amused.
💜👀Next up, Operation P Day!👀💜
I’m not a savy blogger yet so unsure of menus. icons etc. To see Sasha’s You Tube channel which chronicals her journey from onset untill present day, please click here.