Sir Lancelot’s Story (aka “Lance”)
First, I’d like to give some background on Lance. Prior to me meeting him, he had been hit by a car on a freeway in Houston, TX in 2007, estimated age 2 – 4 years. A Good Samaritan picked him up, brought him to her apartment, and put signs up looking for his owners. After a week of no one claiming him, she brought him to Golden Beginnings Golden Retriever Rescue, Inc. of Houston (GBGRR.)
Upon Lance’s intake to GBGRR, they found he had heartworms, was not neutered, was severely underweight at 49 lbs and upon X-ray of his back right and left legs; found many fractured bones. The bones had been crushed. There were fractures at his stifles down to his toes, all of which had begun to fuse together in the healing process due to the time that had lapsed between the incident and treatment. There was nothing that could be done about this at this point. Deramaxx was prescribed to be taken as needed for pain.
Prior to this, I had applied with GBGRR looking to “Foster-to-Adopt” a Golden. I had originally requested an English or Blond Golden, but when I read Lances story, I had to see him. FYI, GBGRR had named him “Sir Lancelot” upon his intake and after meeting him, I knew why. That name fit him perfectly….very regal and of royalty for sure! 🙂
I scheduled a time to go meet him at the foster house he was staying at on 09/27/2007. The foster volunteer and intake coordinator, Cil, had him at her house with other intakes. Cil mentioned that others had come to see him and they didn’t take him, nor did he show too much interest in them. Of course he was the “normal” golden friendly personality, but nothing extraordinary until I walked in. He came to me and immediately laid on his back for a belly rub after giving me a friendly lick on the face and friendly hand shake to say “nice to meet you” (I’m quite sure :-)). Cil said that since she had him, he had never done that to her or anyone that had come to see him. It was love at first sight for both of us and he hasn’t left my side since! When walking out to get in the car, he couldn’t get in the car fast enough. He knew he was home as much as I knew he found his “Forever Home.”
So there began the fostering part prior to adopting. He had bumps, scrapes, bruises, fractures, and was still intact, underweight and heartworm positive. All you could see was bones. I remember bringing him to Petco and people giving me dirty looks, and I had to tell them, “I just got him! I didn’t do this to him!”
Anyway, I wrapped and cleaned his wounds daily, got some weight on him and then he was neutered. The last procedure before adopting him as my own was to get him through the heartworm treatment. It was a two part procedure and was not easy, but he got through it! As for his rear right stifle and foot (the worst of his back legs,) the vets said there wasn’t anything they could do, but assured me he wasn’t in pain. Although he always lifted that leg/foot when walking on hard surfaces or running, he never let it slow him down. The vet said other than that, the X-rays looked well and no sign of hip dysplasia or fractures of the spine. I was given Deramaxx for those days when he over did it at the dog park and seemed to be in some pain, but that was very rare. He was a happy boy!
Then, with a clean bill of health, I officially signed the adoption agreement and he was mine. He went to work with me every day and gave everyone in the office a smiling face and hand shake which made even the most stressful of days tolerable! 🙂
Then one day after playing in the yard, I noticed a lump on his right cheek and it looked like he had been stung by a wasp. After two days of the lump not decreasing in size, off to the vet we went. They did an aspiration and biopsy in which they sent to Texas A & M, but told me their initial diagnosis upon looking at the cells under a microscope was that it was lymphoma. I was devastated!!! I kept asking, “Are you sure???” “It came up so suddenly.” They said yes and off to surgery he went. They removed his left tonsil, did a surgical excision of the mass on his cheek and removed his mandibular lymph gland which was all sent off to Texas A & M. The histologic diagnosis was Lymphoma, large cell, high grade. Written on the report was “Round Cell Sarcoma,” “Mast Cell Histiocytosis,” and “Null Cell Lymposarcoma.” They had difficulty identifying it as T cell or B cell. They eventually referenced it as a fairly new categorization of Null cell and said he would probably pass within a few months.
Well, still in disbelief and not ready to give up, I took him to an oncologist where Lance underwent one round of chemotherapy. The meds and schedule was intense and he wasn’t going to be able to play with other dogs or go out which is something he so enjoyed. It was at that point I decided to stop the chemo and give him the best life he good have that remained. He didn’t appear to be in pain and was unknowing of his condition, so I spoiled him rotten. We went to play on the beach at Galveston, lots of dog parks, toys, got him on the diet recommended for dogs with cancer, etc. I used to joke that I’m going to create a spoiled rotten monster and he will live forever 🙂 Well, after Texas A & M predicted he would pass by April or May of 2008…..he is still here! YEAH!!!!!
Being lucky enough to work for a company based in Houston that allowed me to move to Las Vegas and telecommute once I received word of health issues my family (know living in Vegas) were having, off we went. Upon our arrival, I contacted a local Golden Retriever Rescue for the name of a good local veterinarian that they used. Enter Dr. Brian Hewitt at Cheyenne West Animal Hospital. After reviewing Lance and all the lab work from Texas A & M, Dr. Hewitt assured me that Texas A & M got this one wrong…….THANK GOD that people are human and make mistakes 🙂 !!!!!!!!!
After a few bouts of Lance refusing to move or get up and just seeming depressed, in September of 2013 I took him to see Dr. Hewitt and he said as he aged and because of his prior injury, it was likely that arthritis was causing him pain. He prescribed Rimadyl and Tramadol, a pain medication and anti-inflammatory that when used in conjunction with one another seemed to have a synergistic effect that was very positive. We also started him on Joint Care DS and Derma-3 (Omega) fatty acids.
After a very short time of being on these meds, he was no longer depressed and apparently in no pain, running around like a two-year old. I felt so sad as it made me realize how much pain he must have been in, but also felt so happy to see him so uplifted and apparently relieved of the pain. My only concern was the long-term affect being on these meds would play on his kidneys and liver, not to mention the close to $200 per month invoice. My boy had been through so much and I was not about to allow him to be in pain. Dr. Hewitt informed me that stem cell therapy was showing positive results with horses and dogs and emailed me information about it as well as gave me Dr. Roger A. Mauer’s business card.
I made an appointment to see Dr. Mauer so he could evaluate Lance’s condition and determine whether he thought he would be a good candidate for stem cell therapy. Dr. Mauer observed his gait and how he pulled his rear right foot up when walking. He thought he would be a good candidate for the stem cell therapy, but we first had to do some X-rays and blood work. Although he didn’t act like it, it was estimated that by now he could be nine or ten years old. I knew I didn’t want him in pain, but I was concerned about diminishing the length of his life by the damage of the continued use of the prescriptions could have on his liver and kidneys. So Dr. Mauer did a senior blood panel and everything came back good. He also did X-rays to see if there were any other concerns or injuries to his back, spine or hips. There weren’t. His blood work was good and I wanted him off the pain meds as soon as possible (without being in pain!!) and the X-rays showed no other concerns other than his stifles and feet both right and left. It was apparent that there were fractures that didn’t heal or heal properly. Dr. Mauer had the X-rays sent off to be evaluated by a radiologist. Dr. Mauer then showed me the X-rays and very patiently went over every detail of them. I felt sad for Lance because his rear right foot was just a mess, but I also felt so hopeful!! Dr. Mauer explained the procedure to me in detail, gave me an estimate and we scheduled the initial surgery to extract an area of abdomen fat from which they would break down through a process to get to the stem cells. After that process, the stem cells would be injected directly into Lance’s fractured areas pinpointed on the X-rays as well as one cc given intravenously. This would all be done in one day and then the remaining stem cells would be sent to MediVet in Kentucky to be held for future use if needed.
Before the surgery though, Lance had to be off the anti-inflammatory and pain meds for two days prior. What a difference. Within those two days you could see the depression coming back, which was now my sign that he was in pain. I kept telling him, just a couple days and then you are going to feel like a new man 🙂 He had no clue what I meant or what was coming, but although it was hard to see him in pain again, I was so encouraged, grateful and thankful for Dr. Hewitt and Dr. Mauer!!! I was so hopeful and knew this was going to keep my boy out of pain and off meds that would have most likely diminished his kidney and liver functions eventually, i.e.,…..which selfishly meant I would hopefully have my boy for a longer period of time because as most pets owners, I was not ready to say “good bye” and couldn’t imagine my life without him, but even if it didn’t increase his quantity of years left, it had a promising impact of increasing his quality of life. I don’t believe in keeping animals alive when there is no hope of recovery and they are in pain when the owner’s selfishly can’t handle letting go. I don’t think that is fair to the animal, but that is only my personal opinion. In appropriate situations, where there is no recovery or relief of pain available, I see euthanasia as a blessing, but I knew Lance was healthy otherwise and could still have quality years ahead of him if I could find a way to relieve the pain without the use of the pain meds. Hence, STEM CELL THERAPY! And let me say, that Dr. Mauer is THE BEST!!! He called before the surgery to see how he was doing and to go over the procedure and to see if I had any questions. He also called daily for updates following the procedures. I so appreciate him!
Well, the day of surgery came. It went wonderfully!! I dropped Lance off in the morning and picked him up in the late afternoon. Dr. Mauer gave me a list of instructions upon Lance’s discharge to include instructions for exercise and activities. It stated, “Patients should have limited exercise, avoid access to stairs and may resume normal exercise and activity in 14 days.” (Lol)…..that was laughable. I don’t mean to sound condescending, but from the minute I picked him up, he jumped in the SUV, and once home was acting like he was a two-year old pup. Realize they had given him a Rimadyl injection that should have lasted 24 hours, but still, it was amazing. For the next two weeks, he began to use both his back feet, especially his right (the worst one) more and more consistently. It was like he held it up due to muscle memory for having done so for so many years due to the pain and it took him a while to relearn that “Hey, it doesn’t hurt when I use that foot anymore!” Please allow and forgive my paraphrasing, but I’m quite sure that’s what he was thinking. We know each other’s thoughts if you know what I mean 🙂
So over the next 90 days (only having to give him pain meds three times due to him over exerting himself) he increasingly used his back foot on all surfaces and his mood was wonderful. It was amazing.
I would also like to note that prior to the first round of injections, Lance had thick, cloudy fat deposits on his corneas. Nothing of which could be done. When Dr. Mauer did the first stem cell treatment, in addition to the trigger point injections, he gave him one cc of stem cells intravenously. The closer to the 90 day mark we got I began to notice that the size and thickness of those fatty deposits on his corneas seemed to be dissipating. I am such a firm believer that stem cells are the answer to so many diagnoses and diseases for pets and humans. I often wish Dr. Mauer would do this procedure on me 🙂 I did see where Meridith Vieira’s husband is going through the stem cell process for his MS. After seeing the results with Lance, I have no doubt his quality of life will increase in some manner after the procedure!!
Okay, so back to Lance. Dr. Mauer and other veterinarians that had seen Lance’s x-rays and the extent of his injuries were recommending we do another round of injections at the 90 day mark so Dr. Mauer ordered vials from MediVet in Kentucky and Lance was back at Cheyenne West Animal Hospital for his second round of injections. Due to the severity of Lance’s back stifle and foot injuries (especially on the right,) it was decided to not do one cc intravenously this time and to save the other four vials for the future. The studies have shown that the injections last somewhere between one to three years depending on the animal and injury. As Lance is close to ten….I’ve told him he should be good to go for another four years and he can’t leave me 🙂
Before the second round of injections, Dr. Mauer X-rayed Lance’s back stifles and feet to compare them to X-rays taken prior to the first round of injections. It was amazing. His left foot appeared to be completely healed and back to “normal;” and his right foot, the worst one, showed great improvements of the fractures being repaired and even as a “layman,” it was quite evident to see how much his inflammation decreased, nearly totally gone. Boy! Did it make Mom smile!!! I got chills 🙂
Anyway, I dropped Lance off to Dr. Mauer in the morning and picked him up that evening again for the second round of injections. Now after 90 days of the muscle memory diminishing and Lance building confidence that he could use his foot without pain, it was “off to the races” this time…..almost literally, when I picked him up. There was no slowing him down. I told Dr. Mauer I swear it was like he was a two-year old pup and I was quite sure he had had to have given him some Prozac as well 🙂 That may sound funny, but I’m being serious. I told Dr. Mauer I don’t know what you gave him, but I wanted some too, please!!!!!
I am disappointed I didn’t have video of Lance before treatment and after, but I hope that this testimonial will paint a vivid and accurate picture of the effect the stem cell treatment had on him and his quality of life, which continues to improve daily. No pain meds for him with his new found “freedom” and I now need to increase my endurance so I can keep up with him during our walks. We have gone to school a few times and he has his Canine Good Citizen certification, but now with the use of his back foot, he is doing some tricks/dancing. It truly is amazing. He will soon be registered as a therapy dog and hopes to spread his love, smiles and well feeling and wishes to those children with cancer and/or other disorders, and to seniors in nursing homes and/or hospice facilities.
Lance and I can’t thank Dr. Mauer, MediVet, Dr. Hewitt, and all the other staff members at Cheyenne West Animal Hospital enough. They truly are God sent!! I feel so grateful and blessed that they are here doing the work they are.
If anyone is considering stem cell therapy as an option for their pet and has any questions or would like to visit with Lance for a “play date,” please feel free to contact me, Julie Johnson-Hiu at (713) 446-5611 to set up a time to meet. Lance would love to show off his new skills and the positive work of Dr. Mauer and stem cell therapy!!!
Thank you so much and keep up the good work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!