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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Birdie and I are fighting this together

I have not written about this on the blog, but if you follow on other social media you know that Birdie and I are in the fight of a lifetime. We are trying to pull her through the dreaded meningeal worm..."brain worm' is another term. Carried by White Tail deer, and then passed in feces to slugs and snails, it enters the llama [goats and sheep are also susceptible but camelids can be infected by way fewer worms] and does nerve damage if not caught immediately.

It started back on October 6, at our farm event, where Birdie sat holding court with her guests. When she went to get up that day, she struggled. I knew it wasn't right, and thought she had just been laying down a long time. Fortunately when it happened, I was standing with a well versed llama person who suggested it might be M worm, and I immediately called my vet, and began the 5 day intensive regime. We caught it at a very early stage-often if a llama is already down and unable to get up, those cases do not have the best chance for recovery. Within days of the first treatment, she was able to rise on her own. A few weeks later, she went down again, and we feared we had not gotten the worm, so we treated for another five days, and she rebounded, again...there was always some staggering, but that is normal due to some nerve damage from the worm. When the worm is killed, it stays in the spinal column, and the hope is the body absorbs it, but sometimes the deworming doesn't get them all, or, the worm is killed but not 'arrested' in other words it moves around.

I had never heard of this dreaded worm, we did not have white tail deer out west, and when we arrived in Maine, without a vet, we treated Birdie with a dewormer we had always used. I had some initial vets out here that first year but they were all equine vets, and I had no warning from any of them about M. Worm [and I am not saying it is their fault]. I wished somebody had mentioned it to me in the that first year and a half, but why would they? But now I know. Instead of giving one ivermectin shot each fall as we had done out west, we should have been giving Birdie that shot monthly. That shot kills the worm right as it enters the body. By the time symptoms appear, ivermectin is useless to the worms once they are in the spine, and another regime is needed.

So, after her two treatments, and two recoveries, she was doing great. She was up every morning, and even though she could not go out in muddy areas since she could slip, or ice either, she was good.

And out of the blue, overnight, about three weeks ago, she went down again and could not get her hind up on her own. Within days, she was worse in the hind end and even I could not get her up. The vet came again. We are treating her another time. Somehow, the first vet that prescribed the meds, did not give the right dosage, so all those treatments should have been double. It was an honest error, and a communication error between all of us [I believe in my current vet whole heartedly], and it is water under the bridge. Our blood work this week showed that the amount of a certain enzyme in her blood showed 'some' nerve damage, but not huge amounts of nerve damage. This is a positive. There is nothing in the blood work indicating other things going on [of course lots of things could be going on and blood would not show it], and her mineral and other levels were normal.

So, we devised-thanks to Martyn- a sling system, where we hoist her up twice daily, and I give her therapy by moving her hips, and massage her. I have talked to a very dear friend, a physical therapist who is also trained in massage and other healing arts, and he said I'm on the right track. He gave me some suggestions for our therapy sessions. I felt lifted in spirit after talking to him. We have been doing the sling/therapy since Tuesday night, and we do see improvement.

Most of all, her attitude is still good, she is still smiling. I do believe she understands I am helping her. She and I are very close, and now we are even closer. Through it all, her Goose remains vigilant, watches carefully as we load her into the sling, checking out to make sure Birdie is being treated right when I give shots and such. Birdie is probably in the top five healing animals I've ever worked with. She is so loved by so many, and such a component to our work here. I can not tell you how crushed I am that this happened, and I am very much to blame since I did not know the deworming regime for this dreaded worm.

But we continue to pray and work together to help her. I have hung prayer flags for her, and me. Thankfully Martyn is home working in winter, so I have him to help. I can not pull the pully and work on her at he same time. He is continuing to try to improve the pulley so he can leave it secure and leave me to work on her. I'm grateful I took that year of massage too, and have had physical therapy myself, so will be working on her lumbar region. We are seeing small improvements.

As long as she improves, as long as she shows me she wants to try, and does not get bed sores that are impossible to keep clean-we will continue to work. I am not giving up. I don't care if I have to do this for a year. I have read of a couple cases where a llama was down like this for a year, and one day, they arrived at the barn and she was standing.

I've shed a lot of tears over this, especially when I found out we were doing the wrong dosage. But that is then, this is now, I tell her everyday we will get through this. Until she tells me otherwise, we are going on hope, love and determination.