April 26, 2016, the day we’d has been anxiously waiting for ~ Sasha’s stem cell therapy which we prayed would offer her both relief from knee arthritis and overall strength in her left rear leg ,decreasing the knuckling and improve her overall mobility. It was almost a 3 hour drive to Maine Veterinary Referral Center in Scarborough where Dr. Alan Potthoff, the same neurosurgeon who initially treated Sasha’s Fibrocartilaginous Embolism (FCE) in 2011, has his facility. Although Portland Veterinary Specialists , the practice were Sasha’s wonderful internist, Dr. Sarah Noble works, also offers stem cell therapy, I chose to go with Maine Veterinary Referral because they had a specialty lab on site and were able to process the harvested adipose tissue and infuse the cells in the same day. Both practices are quite a distance so if we could make it as one trip I thought it would be better for Sasha. Dr. Potthoff uses Vetbiologics for regenerative medicine. Even if you’re not considering SCT for a pet, their website is extremely interesting. As I posted before I wasn’t even aware this cutting edge treatment was available for animals, let alone in Maine, a somewhat rural state. I’m going to describe the day as it unfolded but not in lengthy or technical detail because I have many photos and videos that can speak and describe the events much better than me. The “behind the scenes” images were taken at my request by Dr.Potthoff, the neurosurgeon and team leader for Sasha’s autologous stem cell procedure. Since the purpose of the SCT was to help her rear leg osteoarthritis, he wanted to have a “beginning” point so he took both photos and video of Sasha walking to compare with her mobility in the next few months. I literally tried for hours today to upload the videos Dr. Potthoff took but they simply wouldn’t complete. They are however on her You Tube channel, Sasha’s Journey. The videos from SCT day begin with #57 and go upward to #49. Please take a look as they are quite remarkable.
My daughter and I arrived about 8:30am and despite the long ride, Sasha didn’t walk as if she was uncomfortable. She did however have a difficult time getting up from a sitting/lying position on the tiled waiting room floor because of the left rear leg, her problem child. She was still blind but that didn’t stop her from being her typical “Barking Betty” ~ barking at other dogs. I was glad she was in good spirits. Once Ashley, LVT took her weight and vital signs, we were escorted to an exam room. I think it was while we waited that I began getting anxious. So much had happened in such a short time and as I lay on the floor talking to Sasha, it hit me. She was so calm and steady which came as no surprise as she’s always had steely nerves.
After a short wait, Angella LVT (Neurology) came in to review the paperwork for the EI1 specimen which she would be drawing and arranging for overnight shipment to National Veterinary Diagnostic Services in TX. I may have posted about “banking” some of Sasha’s stem cells but now that I’d gone through the paperwork with Angella I have more information I’d like to share. Banking your animal’s stem cells means that when harvesting them from the adipose tissue (fat) from the abdomen, the surgeon extracts more than needed for the current procedure. Your animal is anesthetized for the harvesting and the collection site is closed using staples. The extra adipose tissue is not processed with the cells that are being used that day but instead, sent overnight to the biotech lab. It’s a bit pricey (I’ll post a breakdown later) but in my opinion worth it. If Sasha were to need another infusion in the future, the neurosurgeon’s office would contact the biotech lab who then processes the sample and ships it overnight. When Sasha arrived for the stem cell infusion and/or Platelet Rich Plasma (RRP)injections, she would only need light sedation for the procedure. Even though there are assorted fees involved with banking, it’s still a tad cheaper than having a second harvest done. More important, it’s less invasive to Sasha (no second incision) and less risk of complications from anesthesia. Having said that, it was a bit surreal reading all the papers from the biotech lab and answering the questions . Example – if I no longer had need of Sasha’s cells did I want them destroyed or donated? Conjured up images from an old Law &Order SVU episode where the detectives pretended to be sperm bank donors. When Ashley, LVT entered the exam area to escort Sasha back to the surgical/treatment suites, my anxiety level rose ~ a lot. I walked to the door with them and after I turned to leave I ran back to give Sasha another hug and kiss. The following photographs were taken by Dr. Potthoff and I’ve grouped them into sections.
Angella ,LVT (Neurology) has had specialty training and certification in stem cell processing so she began her work.
We stayed in the main waiting area all day until about 3pm when I simply had to step out for some air. I was surprised to see that there had been a light snow shower and my daughter’s Honda had snow on it.
It was finally over! She recovered well and was able to leave in about an hour! They said she handled the process very well but would probably be groggy through tomorrow morning. Then, for the next 2 weeks, leash walks only and then only outside for potty breaks. One of the team members took the video and photos with the Dr. Potthoff’s camcorder. He downloaded them to a flash drive and when I returned to have her stables out he gave it to me. What a day. Actually what a month and a half ~ seemed like an eternity since her initial exam on March 8.
The remaining photos and video I took as she was being walked out and during the trip home. My poor girl is zonked! That’s my scapular still attached to her collar.
I have many people to thank for helping Sasha receive SCT. However I particularly want to thank my husband, daughter and a wonderful guy, David, who without his help Sasha would not have been able to have this life changing therapy. My family for picking up the slack while I spent long hours online day in and day out and for sacrificing many of the little everyday or weekly pleasures in an effort to pinch pennies. David for stepping up to the plate and helping me pay for the rest of Sasha’s procedure for which I will be eternally grateful. In addition to being just an all around great guy, he’s an avid dog lover.
💜Next up ~ the day after💜
I’m not a savvy blogger yet so unsure of menus, icons etc. To see Sasha’s You Tube channel which chronicles her journey from onset until present day, please click here.