Ava’s arm update:  no more tan lines

Yesterday, we met with the brachial plexus team at Cincinnati for a check-up of Ava’s arm.  If you are new to my blog, 2 years ago Ava became unbuckled from our side-by-side and suffered complete paralysis of her right arm.  She received nerve transfers in August of 2015, and we were told that we would then wait for 2 years to allow the nerves to grow so we could see what she gained, and then discuss more surgeries. 

So, we walked in ready to talk about some surgeries.  After showing them what Ava can do and can’t do, we were shocked to hear them say “keep waiting”.   They had initially said nerves grow a millimeter a day, an inch a month….but Dr. Schwentger said that is just something they say and it doesn’t apply to the fine and tiny stuff near the end. Even though the “inches rule” signifies we are done, the expert says we are not. 

I think that is really good news!  More potential. They want to see her in another 12 months but we are to call and chat and maybe meet up if something tightens or she is losing something she has gained. 

You can see her tan line! And some electrodes that I use to do her E-stim treatments at night.


I am so excited to share that very few people will immediately recognize Ava as different anymore, because we can ditch the pink or beige splints she has worn for the past 2 years!!! If I had a dollar for every nice person in the grocery store that has noticed and kindly commented on Ava’s condition, my food bill would be zero. 

The change of thought:

1.  The likelihood of a broken bone in her arm is less than it was.  Even though her balance is still not perfect, it is much improved.  Her arm bones are smaller and less strong than an average child, but they aren’t overly worried.  

2.  Her hand won’t become overstretched like they had originally been concerned about because…. Her pronaters never kicked in.  Her supination did.  So, she always holds her forearm upside-down, in a supinated position.  Thus, her wrist is never dangling and never tightens in a weird way. 

3.  Let her just be normal.  What kid would want that label and that attention?

They also left me with a lot to think about regarding Ava’s therapy schedule.  Ava currently goes to to each of these once a week:  physical, occupational, speech. They told me that I know my stuff; these therapy sessions are impeding regular life.  Let her be a kid, activities like swimming and track are just as useful.  I should just continue do my nightly routine with her.  When I looked at the main surgeon to double-check within her eyes if she was being honest, she looked at our other 3 children and said, “You certainly must have other things going on as well.”    That was of course hard to hear as I try to balance my time in being fair to my whole family.  So lots to think about there. 

In another year or two, Ava will undergo a surgery that they swear is “no big deal” to flip her forearm so it isn’t always upside down. It’s called an osteotomy.   Cut the bone and realign it.  We live in a palm-down society where most of the things we do (ride bike, drive cars, use a computer mouse) require that position.  There are very few cases like Ava’s but they have recently figured out that it isn’t so successful to cut both of the bones that operate in your forearm or the muscles will simply pull things back to the way they were.  I guess now they are just cutting one bone and aligning that way.  While it seems like the wrong thing to do, they are getting better results. 

Lastly, we signed a contract that places Ava in a study so that all her information can be shared, analyzed and used to improve the outcome in kids that will suffer brachial plexus injuries in the future. 

I apologize if this was strange writing but wow, my brain doesn’t function as well when we aren’t in our own home, eating normal foods and in our normal routines.  I think I am worse than a kid for adjusting to travel!

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Continued Care

Continued Care

I’ve been asked many times, “How long will you have these Carlson cows?”.   Here’s the answer: we don’t really know.  

We have done enough construction here on our farm to be quite aware that any guesses as to a timeline for fixing a building is kinda a lie.

We will just keep caring for them as long as needed!  I had a 3-day stint as a full-time cow secretary as many of us were trying to get things under control from a record-keeping side of things.  It was fun to be in the mix of things, but I was pretty happy to transition back into my mom role by the end of last week.  

As a mom, it has been super busy.  My oldest two, Vince and Liv are at a 4-H camp.  I really miss them for their company, as well as the work they do here for us.   Here’s a pic of those two after Liv took a tumble in the heifer pasture last Sunday!

My heart is breaking here, though, because I dropped those two off to get on the camp bus and came home to find one very ill mama goat.  Tess, Vince’s champion goat from the fair last year, came down with some sort of weird neurological illness that caused her to have labored breathing and weak legs.   I immediately called a veterinarian and we treated her, but she didn’t come around.   When we started this 4-H project, I wanted the kids to learn about the circle of life.  This is going to be a tough story to tell them, though.  

National June Dairy Month continues and I gave a tour this morning to 20 incoming high school freshman of our local high school.  Our very own Ocheda Dairy started as my father-in-law’s FFA project, so I hope they were inspired today.  I tried to take a selfie:


Ava update:   We are still doctoring with Cincinnati Children’s following Ava’s nerve transfers in her arm nearly two years ago.  Our next appointment is on Tuesday.  We will take the time to go out there as a family, and leave the cows in the care of Dave, Bryan, Corey and a lot of other great employees.   It is crazy to try to get things ready to go away, but I think we need to do it anyway.  

Paying it back 

We are currently providing emergency housing for 310 milking cows that had their barn severely damaged by a windstorm/possible tornado near Pennock, Minnesota, two days ago.  Caring for these Carlson Dairy cows is an honor for our family. 

Preparing for the arrival of these cows on Sunday was true teamwork here at Ocheda Dairy. For everybody else that helped, from our long-time faithful employees to my pregnant sister-in-law who showed up donning work gloves, they did the work necessary simply because it was the right thing to do.  For me, however, in my heart, it was so much about “paying it back”.  After experiencing the overwhelming outpouring of support following Ava’s accident two years ago, I wanted the Carlson family and all those involved within their farm to be surrounded with that same love and care.  To be able to help out a family in need is a huge sign of God’s perfect timing and presence. 

Here’s some photos from the afternoon and evening. 

My son, Vince, and father-in-law, Dave, scrubbing out water troughs because we knew the cows would be thirsty for a clean drink of water upon arrival.


My husband taught our long-term employee all about fencing cows and welding gating this past winter, so Ever was called to come and help.


As part of the construction project from the past year, we have a portable welder on a pallet and, without knowing that these new cows would be as calm as they have been, we wanted to be sure our milking parlor return alleys were secure. So, here, Joe is prepping to go weld in a bit more fencing.


If you know Ocheda Dairy, you know Bryan, who knows the ins and outs of cow care (as well as employee care), better than anyone.


Joe, with our brother-in-law, who is a vet (super-handy to have one of those in the family that lives just a mile away!)


After the 11th, and final, truck of the evening was unloaded, our mechanic and feed center manager, Corey, signs some papers. He had been working with each trucker as they arrived to get trailers backed up to the chute correctly.


My mother-in-law was caring for these 5 cousins and there was never a moment dull enough to merit changing out of church clothes!


The teamwork that was displayed on our farm is just a drop in the bucket when one considers the enormous amount of volunteers that stepped forward to help at Carlson Dairy. To hear reports of hundreds of working hands, donated casseroles, and faithful prayers lifted, well –that is what makes farming in Minnesota the treasure that it is.   I spent a lot of time in contact with members and closest friends of the Carlson family yesterday as we sorted out the details on how to best care for these cows.  They have been articulate, compassionate and grateful, and I am certain that one day, if given the opportunity, they would certainly step forward to “pay it back”, too. 

 Thanks again for all your support, now and in the past.  

Safety-first Slip-N-Slide

Joe told me it wasn’t going to work.  He said that this new-style plastic that we use to cover our cow feed was not slippery enough.  

I thought we ought to try it as a huge Slip-N-Slide anyhow.  So, I called our 21-year-old employee that takes care of all the cow and heifer feeding (well, actually, since he is 21, I texted him).  10 days later he pulls on to our yard with a monstrous piece of plastic.  

So, we drug it out of his truck and up a hill we had built as part of our heifer yard.  Joe had wanted to be able to blow heifer bedding into their pen without driving into it, so maybe 5 years ago we moved dirt until it looked like this:


Well, as it turns out, Joe was right.  This new plastic we’ve been using for a few years now does not work for summertime fun, just for preserving corn silage and haylage.  It has this basketweave pattern in it that causes too much friction to slide.  We ended up having to run down the hill pulling each other on sleds.  Vince suggested lots of dish soap to make things more slippery but I nixed that idea.  

Here’s a few more photos from recent days on the farm. 

First cutting hay is done! We had gotten a new chopper (huge machine to harvest hay and corn) and it worked well.

Isn’t this calf pretty? Kids can be so convincing!

Worthington, MN water tower in the background of this pic of Joe checking on a field of barley and peas. We will harvest it soon and then plant a variety of soybeans that matures more quickly than most — double-cropping!


Summer is here!   Happy June Dairy Month to you.