Sports Girl Reports on Pre-Surgery Anxiety

I am very nervous and scared about the surgery. I won’t be able to eat after midnight and I am always very hungry in the morning, so that should be interesting. Also, I don’t get any liquids after midnight except clear liquids, and I can only have those until 7 A.M. I am also really worried about the I.V. Does it hurt? What about the mask that puts you out? How long are you out? What happens if you keep sleeping for a while longer? How do you feel when it’s all over? Will the pain medications make me sick then making me not be able to take them anymore causing intense pain all the time? Yikes! It’s all so scary, and I have no idea what is going to happen to me! Just thinking about all of the medicine TV shows that I’ve seen makes me woozy. Is that what they are doing to me?

Some other things I have to be aware of is that I have to make sure that all of my nail polish is off. I just got done taking it all off and it took me forever because I had to get in all the nook and crannies and get all of the little bits of nail polish off, what a bother! Also, I didn’t get to have any ibuprofen starting about Sunday. That wasn’t too bad, but it was still a restriction, and another thing to worry about. I am always being constantly reminded of it through those restrictions.

I am also being constantly reminded by the homework I have and by all of my friends telling me good luck and to text them as soon as I could and all. Then there also are all of those people who always ask you where you are going and when you tell them they ask why and yadda yadda yadda.

Then there is the fact that I still have to buy Christmas presents for my dad and Busy Toddler. I have ideas for both of them, but when am I going to get to the store? Also, even though I get to miss school, I still have a Christmas 4-H Program thing that Horse Lover and some of my other club members are participating in three days after my surgery. Then there is an early Christmas my whole family is having with my Great Grandma before she goes to visit other family four days after my surgery and also five days after my surgery my cousins have invited me to a hockey game and I really want to go! I really hope I am feeling good enough to go to those things!

As I mentioned before, I get to miss school through all of this. The good part of it is that I am only missing three and a half days until Christmas vacation making my vacation almost a whole week longer than it should be! But missing school always means one thing, homework. The only okay part in it is that since it almost being Christmas vacation, I am not missing much since in my middle school there are no finals. I also got most of it done in study hall the past few days.

Anyways, all in all I am pretty scared and nervous about it. In fact, I even started having dreams about it last night! That was pretty freaky. I dreamt that a lady was putting an IV in my hand and while she was doing that I asked her what the odds were of me waking up during the surgery. She said that that had happened only like 1/6 of the time. Boy, that really freaked me out! That still meant that people did wake up! But before I could think much of it I started feeling woozy. Just when I was starting to fall asleep, I woke up because I had even started feeling woozy in real life! When I looked at my clock it was 5 A.M. and so then I just sat in bed and worried for an hour and a half until my dad and mom came in to wake me up.

I will report more after the surgery, but for now I need to get to sleep so that my mom can wake me up for some more spaghetti before it is to late to eat anymore! Good night!

Sports Girl Prepares for Knee Surgery

This doesn’t really fit in with the “country life” angle of my blog, but my oldest daughter who recently turned 14 is scheduled for knee surgery next week and it’s a big event for our family. I couldn’t find much information online covering her affliction and impending surgery, so I thought I would go ahead and detail the experience.

Sports Girl Wears Knee Brace While Playing Soccer

Sports Girl wore this special knee brace for the entire fall soccer season. It helped her feel a bit more secure, but ultimately it didn't keep her knee cap from subluxing again.

Sports Girl first dislocated her left patella or knee cap following a collision during a physical education class in April. I say “dislocated” because most people will understand what that means, but her patella actually “subluxed.” That means it went out of place and then shortly after went back into place on its own. A truly dislocated patella must be manipulated to be put back into place. (Slammed back into place is probably a more accurate description, but we’ll go with “manipulated.”) The full, proper term for the temporary dislocation which Sports Girl experienced is “patellar subluxation.”

At first I thought the episode was nothing but a fluke. Sports Girl took a few days off from P.E. and spring soccer practices; she also missed one Saturday soccer game which was a huge sacrifice for her. She returned to soccer practice on Monday, and her left patella promptly subluxed again – this time just as she planted her left foot to kick with her right, without anyone touching her.

Now I knew we needed to look into this issue further. I took Sports Girl to see a local physician’s assistant; she recommended Sports Girl wear a neoprene knee brace, exercise to build up her muscles and perhaps undergo physical therapy. We decided to wait to see how Sports Girl’s knee would heal before starting physical therapy – perhaps she just hadn’t given it enough time before going back to sports. But we did pick up a basic knee brace at our local sporting goods store.

I first wrote about Sports Girl’s knee troubles about this time. You can see my post relating to bike riding as exercising here.

Summer was fast approaching, and she would be able to take more time off to recover. The thing was, it was becoming obvious that the patellar subluxation experiences had left their mark on Sports Girl’s body and mind. She was continuing to experience discomfort, and she was extremely anxious about her knee whenever she did any physical activity. So I decided to get another medical opinion. This time we went to a full-fledged medical doctor and used the appointment to also conduct a physical examination to meet school athletic requirements for the next year. This two-for-one approach helped me convince Handsome Hubby that we should spend the money on another office visit even though he was personally convinced that Sports Girl would eventually just grow out of this problem.

Second Doctor Refers Us to Orthopedic Surgeon

But this doctor had other thoughts. He paid special attention to Sports Girl’s bone structure and build and to how generously loose her joints presented. He thought she was a prime candidate for surgery to correct her problem and he referred us to an orthopedic surgeon who specialized in sports medicine and who was utilizing new surgical methods to correct this particular issue.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t get in to see this sports med/ortho for about 6 weeks; it was already late June, and the fall soccer season was fast approaching. In the mean time, we tried to get in to see our local orthopedic surgeon, but we had to start by seeing his physican’s assistant. This P.A. also recommended physical therapy, so with two written orders on file with the physical therapy department, we decided to go ahead and get started with that before seeing the other orthopedic surgeon.

Sports Girl Starts Physical Therapy

The physical therapy seemed to make Sports Girl’s knee hurt more before it got better, but she did make progress. Her exercises called for strengthening not just her VMO , quads and hamstrings, but also her hip flexers, glutes and abdomen. Since girls have a wider core, research has shown the important of strengthening the whole package to heal and prevent injuries. Prior to this I thought a 13-year-old girl was much too young to be introduced to the weight room, but now I’m convinced that with proper training and a proper approach of lifting a lighter amount of weight for more repetitions, weight training or strength training in general may well be crucial to keeping teenage girls physically healthy.

When we finally got in to see the sports med ortho, he ordered x-rays of Sports Girl’s knee and confirmed that her patella sat at an outward tilt, which became more pronounced when her leg was bent at a slight angle. That combined with her loose joints made her very susceptible to patellar subluxation and dislocation. And once the patella slides out of place, the ligaments attached to it become stretched or torn, resulting in subsequent subluxations. He prescribed a special knee brace which cradled her knee cap with a horseshoe-shaped support and urged her to continue with the physical therapy.

She plugged along with PT through the summer, faithfully wore her new knee brace and started fall soccer. But she still seemed cautious; she just wasn’t her usual aggressive self. Those subluxation episodes were very painful and she definitely was scared it was going to happen again. A couple of times she told me, “I felt it almost go today.” But thankfully it didn’t. So while she continued doing her exercises, we ended our visits to the physical therapist who had offered these prophetic words, “The real test will be basketball.”

Sports Girl took three weeks off between soccer and basketball, but continued her PT exercises. She really did. I reminded her and pressured her regularly. That’s what moms do, right?

During the first week of basketball her patella subluxed again – this time as she pivoted on her left leg while running a ladder for conditioning. Again, no one touched her, and she was wearing the special knee brace at the time. The episode dropped her to the floor in a crying heap. I got the emergency call from the coach that I might want to come get her early from practice.

Surgery Is Scheduled for Dec. 17

We called the sports med ortho doctor a couple of days later and he said she should not play basketball if she was experiencing pain and that he wanted to see her again. Somehow this time we managed to get an appointment for the very next Monday. That’s when he showed us how fluid had pooled up in her knee. I hadn’t noticed her knee looking bruised or swollen following any of the subluxation incidents, but there was definitely fluid there. And then the doctor uttered those dreaded words. “The last thing I want to do is put a 14-year-old girl on the operating table, but I think we are looking at surgery.”

He also recommended that she quit playing basketball until the problem was corrected. It was a heart-wrenching appointment for Sports Girl, yet she didn’t argue with any of his recommendations. She promptly notified her coach that she would be out for the season but that she would like to serve as team manager. And she started mentally preparing herself for the surgery. That was mid-November. The surgery has been scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 17. I think the five-week wait has been the hardest on Sports Girl – that and watching her basketball teammates lose a couple of very close games while she’s sidelined keeping the stats book.

I’ll post more about her situation and the type of surgery she is having done in the next couple of days. Subscribe using Feedburner to receive e-mail notifications of my posts or keep checking back!

A Tom Cat Named Ginger (Or, Gender Confusion on the Ranch)

Back in August, Busy Toddler and Sports Girl bamboozled Handsome Hubby into adopting a kitten from their cousins. She was a sweet little orange kitten the cousins had already named Ginger.

Tom Cat Named Ginger

George (aka "Ginger") lounges while Busy Toddler starts the day watching cartoons.

Now, this kitty was born and bred as a “ranch” kitty, but that doesn’t mean anything at our house. It was well understood that this would become a house kitten, mostly because we do not have any outbuildings close by that would enable us to officially have “barn” cats. There’s also the issue of our male Welsh Corgi, Archie, who has already successfully chased off one cat, and then there’s the fact that my girls want their pets to be inside, so they can spend more time with the animals for their own personal comfort and convenience.

But I digress … back to the kitty.

A couple of weeks ago I took Ginger to the vet to be spayed. I opted not to pay extra to see if she might have any issues with the anesthesia, and I left my cell phone number with the receptionist in case of an emergency. A couple of hours later, I got what I thought was the dreaded emergency call from the vet clinic, but the lady sounded far too cheerful for there to have been any crisis.

“Ginger’s fine,” she said. “But Ginger’s a boy.”

That was one strange phone call. I didn’t laugh at the time, but I have gotten a good belly laugh out of the conversation since then and thinking about it even now makes me smile. Turns out both of Ginger’s male protrusions failed to protrude at all and were still up inside his abdomen. The worst part was that getting him neutered actually cost more than a normal spaying would have cost because the vet had to search and dig for the goods. Just my luck …

Before you think we’re all crazy, I should emphasize that even the vet tech that prepared poor Ginger for his eventual castration did not notice the gender mix-up until after the kitten was opened up on the operating table and things didn’t present as they should.

My oldest niece says she noticed Ginger was a boy before we picked him up. After examining dozens of litters of kittens, those lifelong teenage ranch girls don’t miss much. And she thought she told us – she probably did. We acquired this kitten right after the county fair, and who’s thinking straight after helping the girls finish dozens of craft, food and sewing exhibits, helping them prepare and show five sheep, and spending three relatively sleepless nights in a tent in the heat at the fairgrounds?!

Speaking of the fair, we had another funny gender issue come up there – this time with Sports Girl’s mini lop rabbit. She purchased the best overall mini lop doe from another 4-Her at our county fair last year specifically to breed with her buck. Well, we didn’t have any luck getting bunnies and for good reason. Turns out last year’s champion doe is actually a buck! Now, it can be tricky to tell the difference between male and female rabbits, especially when they are younger as this rabbit was last year, but still … more than one set of rabbit expert eyes looked at this critter and didn’t catch the mistake!

It’s really no big deal that Ginger is a boy. After all, he’s officially an “it” now. The hard part is convincing a 2-year-old that Ginger should now be called George. Heck, I’m having a hard enough time getting used to the idea myself. I find myself telling Busy Toddler something like, “Be nice. Ginger just had surgery and she has an owie on his tummy. Just scratch George’s head.”

Who wouldn’t be confused after that?

Buck, Ram, Ewe, Dam and Wether or not we know animal designations

When I was in fourth grade my class did a crossword puzzle and one of the clues was “A female sheep.” Having first cousins as sheep farmers, I was the only who knew this was a “ewe,” and I also knew how to spell it!

The scary thing was that this was 30 years ago and this happened in the heart of farm country in eastern South Dakota! I wonder how many kids in big cities would know this today?

A “ewe” is just one classification of a sheep; the term refers to a female sheep. In fact, the first five capitalized words used in the title of this post are names of types of sheep. A buck and a ram are male, intact sheep. A ewe is a female sheep and a dam is a mother sheep.

Some of you probably thought I spelled “Wether” wrong, but this is a play on words. A wether without the first “h” refers to a male sheep who has been castrated.

Take a look at all of the proper names for different animals at this Enchanted Learning site. So if you want to sound like an animal expert, the next time you are talking about a baby penguin, call it a chick. Or if you are referring to a group of penguins, you could sound really intellectual and worldly if you call it a rookery.

Cow is to Heifer as Ewe is to What?

I did a little research online as I was writing my post about getting the ewes bred. From that time spent surfing, I’ve discovered that there is no special name given to a ewe who has either never had a lamb or who is expecting or has just had her first lamb — at least no name that’s widely known and used.

I thought there might be a special term for these young, inexperienced ewes, because in cattle, these are called “heifers” while the more experience mamas are simply called “cows.”

My father- and brother-in-law often refer to the “heifers” or “first-calf heifers,” and these cows are handled differently when they are bred. At our ranch the heifers are generally artificially inseminated with the bull’s “seed” rather than allowed to be bred naturally by the pasture bulls.

The AI-ing is done to increase the likelihood that the heifers will be successfully bred, to shorten the calving season (they all calve closer together when they are all bred on the same day), and to control by exactly which bull they are bred. It’s generally not a good idea to use a bull that has a history of throwing larger birth weights on a heifer. Heifers must also be more closely watched when they are calving as they are at an increased risk of having trouble during delivery.

But enough about cattle. The things is, other than the AI-ing things, first-lamb ewes have many of the same potential issues as heifers. So I wonder why do cattle have a special designation for this situation and sheep don’t?

The Sheep Cycle Starts Again

In mid-June four ewes graze in our little pasture created with electric fence.

In mid-June four ewes graze in our little pasture created with electric fence. The white spots in the middle are plastic shopping bags tied onto the fence wire in between fence posts to help critters (and people) see it better.

We are sheepless at our house right now. But don’t worry — it’s not permanent.

We took the mama sheep to another ranch at the end of September to be bred. We will get them back in a couple of months, and they should be “with lambs” then.

I say lambS, because sheep regularly have twins and triplets aren’t uncommon, especially as the sheep age. And for two of our ewes, next spring will bring their third lamb crop.

Ewes cycle about every 17 days, but in our colder South Dakota climate this will generally only happen in the fall and very early winter as the days get shorter. So leaving our ewes with the ram for 2 months will allow three chances for the ewes to become pregnant as three cycles should occur. Our more mature ewes, especially those who have lambed before, may be bred sooner than the younger lambs who have never been bred.

The average gestation length or length of pregnancy for sheep is about 147 days, give or take a few. So, if our four mature ewes were to be bred today, which is about 3 weeks after we first exposed them to the ram, they should lamb on or around March 11. I used a nifty Lambing Calculator that I found online to figure this out!

Honestly, I am enjoying our brief vacation from feeding sheep. Once school starts, the girls really don’t have time to deal with the sheep in the mornings as the school bus  arrives at the end of our driveway at 7:20 a.m. The girls are also busier in the evenings with school and church activities. Handsome Hubby does most of the work this time of year, but sometimes he asks them to help which usually doesn’t happen without some protest. It’s during these times that I miss those previous years where we sold all of our lambs at the fair and didn’t start over until spring.

But the girls are very good about caring for the sheep during the summer months, and they love having those baby lambs. We should have at least five lambs again come March — so stay tuned!

County Fair Comes and Goes …

Sports Girl and Horse Lover both showed sheep at the county fair in August. Following are some pictures leading up to and of the event:

Horse Lover helped halter break the lambs this summer. I think walking the sheep is her favorite part of showing.

Horse Lover helped halter break the lambs this summer. I think walking the sheep is her favorite part of showing.

Sports Girl briefly reunites the mama white-faced sheep with her two lambs during an evening walk before the fair in August. The lambs were weaned and therefore separated from their mama in early June.

Sports Girl briefly reunites the mama white-faced sheep with her two lambs during an evening walk before the fair in August. The lambs were weaned and therefore separated from their mama in early June.

The lambs must all be sheared just before the show. They are all shown as market or "meat" lambs, and therefore the condition of their carcass is much more important than the quality of their wool.

The lambs must all be sheared just before the show. They are all shown as market or "meat" lambs, and therefore the condition of their carcass is much more important than the quality of their wool.

Handsome Hubby transports the sheep from the ranch to the fair using a rack in back of his pickup.

Handsome Hubby transports the sheep from the ranch to the fair using a rack in back of his pickup.

Sports Girl (far right) shows one of her black-faced lambs at our county fair in August 2009. I believe all of our sheep earned purple ribbons, although none were top finishers in their classes. Oh well ... there's always next year!

Sports Girl (far right) shows one of her black-faced lambs at our county fair in August 2009. I believe all of our sheep earned purple ribbons, although none were top finishers in their classes. Oh well ... there's always next year!

Thank Goodness for Grandmas!

Somehow it’s been almost a month since I’ve posted. For those of you wondering, I am still alive.

It took me the entire month of June to fully recover from my bout with pneumonia. I can’t believe how debilitating that experience was, but at least it’s over. I’m still puffing on a round purple disc of Advair twice a day, but that’s my only real physical reminder of my ordeal – that and the impending medical bills.

So now it’s probably going to take me through most of July or perhaps even longer to catch up on everything I had to abandon during June. I truly don’t know how I managed to get by last month when I was so physically limited. While Sportgirl and Handsome Hubby were both a tremendous help, my mother-in-law was the biggest help of all. I’m sure after all she did for me – caring for and chauffeuring my kids, cooking, laundry, etc. – the month of June must have passed in flash for her, as well.

These days even if the salary isn’t needed, many ranch wives have been forced to work off the ranch just to get health benefits. My mother-in-law hasn’t had to do this, and that’s been an incredible blessing for all of us because someone in the family is always in need of her help. From running parts for the ranch to cooking for the ranch workers to caring for grandkids, she is always ready and willing.

And if my mother-in-law couldn’t have helped, my mother would have been here instead. While she doesn’t live right here, she is also always ready and willing to help us when we need her. She’s actually coming out next week to watch Busy Toddler and to help around the house while I work on getting caught up.

All I can say is, “Thank goodness for grandmas.” What would we ever do without them?

Rain, Rain, Don’t Forget to Fall in August, Too!

We were pelted by hail up to 1" in diameter. Here is some of the hail sprinkled around our deck.

We were pelted by hail up to 1" in diameter. Here is some of the hail sprinkled around our deck.

It seems like the month of June has been nothing but rain around our country. We have received about 2″ of rain just this week already and it’s only Wednesday — 1.25″ in about an hour’s time on Monday!

Here are pictures of our deck on Monday with some hail sprinkled around the buckets of flower seeds Sports Girl planted. You can also see our driveway covered in water, and our shelter belt and newly planted grass soaked in water, as well. I also had Sports Girl take a picture of the rain gauge as further evidence. (I would have taken it myself, but I’m still on doctor’s ordered rest for the remainder of this week.)

The gravel portion of our driveway was completely under water.

The gravel portion of our driveway was completely under water.

In the distance you can see our shelter belt and newly planted grass are soaked by the rain.

In the distance you can see our shelter belt and newly planted grass are soaked by the rain.

The hard rain even came into our house as both skylights in the kitchen leaked. The girls and I must have collected a half inch of water in the bottom of an empty gallon ice cream bucket. The skylight in the master bathroom was cracked by the hail; the crack looks a lot like a rock chip in a windshield. It didn’t leak, but I’m sure we’ll have to replace it along with the other two.

I suppose all this means another visit from the insurance adjuster. We visited with him last year when a hail and wind storm severely damaged our roof — and it happened while we were away of vacation. At least this time we were home and able to minimize the interior damage.

The rain gauge recorded 1.25" of rain in about an hour on Monday, June 15, 2009.

The rain gauge recorded 1.25" of rain in about an hour on Monday, June 15, 2009.

I don’t think the rain or hail has damaged any of our trees or grass yet, and it’s probably actually been a real asset for us in that area. The thing is — history shows that it might rain and rain in June, but then it gets very hot and dry in July and August. So I just wish we could spread some of this around … I don’t want to be out watering trees too many times in 100+ degree temps!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch …

So my health has been an interesting situation. One that has kept me distracted since the end of May. I do believe I’m finally on the mend, and I hope to go home from the hospital tomorrow.

In the mean time, many things have happened in our country life. It was time to let the heifers and their calves into the pasture to eat the grass surrounding our home. Unfortunately, we had taken out the barbed wire fence to plant our trees, and we certainly didn’t want the cows trampling the little seedling trees.

We were undecided on what type of permanent fence we wanted to install, and time was critical, so we purchased and installed an electric fence. The heifers and calves were very curious about the fence and I think every one of them must have tested it out at least once. Each instance resulted in a startled critter jumping quickly away and sometimes bellering.  These “tests” would have made some great video – if I had had the energy to capture it. But it probably would have also drawn negative comments from more animal rights activists, so perhaps it’s just as well that I only have memories of the incidents.

A few times the cow or calf jumped the wrong way and went through the fence. They usually made their way back through the fence, but I think we had to help at least one critter out of the enclosed area. Thankfully, these animals seemed to learn fast as after about a week the fence malfunctioned for a couple of days while we were out of town, and yet all of the cows stayed away.

Besides the electric fence, Handsome Hubby planted the grass seed between our newly planted shelterbelt and our home. He and Sports Girl also planted a garden.

A couple of days later it started to rain. And rain. Even though the mud was a real pain to contend with, the moisture should certainly help all of our new vegetation to prosper. We can already see stalks of grass starting to sprout. Now if the temperatures would just warm up a bit.

The cows were moved on to the next pasture almost quicker than they were moved in, and now they are awaiting their ride to the woods in a semi-trailer. Handsome Hubby’s family has a few different permits from the U.S. Forest Service, and they summer the majority of their cattle in the Black Hills National Forest from mid-June until early October. The arrangement isn’t the most convenient, but it provides an additional source of grass while the family farms for next year’s feed.

We’re still using the electric fence to allow our flock of sheep to graze on a little grass while not worrying about them wandering away. At least now I don’t have to disable the fence and open a gate every time I come and go from home. That’s an inconvenience I really dread, but I try to be a good sport about it. I know how valuable that grass is for feeding those cows. And thankfully, I only have to do it a few weeks out of the year.