Love and hope, transplanted. Hearts full of thanks for gift of life

Reese and kidney donor Alyssa are recovering from Monday’s transplant

Reese&AlyssaBy Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, November 24, 2017, Photo courtesy Bre Bogert Photography

BALTIMORE, Md. — At this season of Thanksgiving and gift-giving, it is a precious gift for Reese Burdette that has her and her family, friends — and all who have followed her journey back from the fire — especially thankful for the selfless generosity of another.

After nearly two years at Johns Hopkins from the May 2014 fire, Reese returned home to the family’s Windy Knoll View dairy farm, Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, in March of 2016. Since then, she has accomplished goals she set for herself, such as getting back to school with her friends and showing her cattle at the All-American. She had returned to an active life this year, improving every day.

But just before the All-American in September, her journey hit a rough spot. She was admitted to Johns Hopkins, where she and her family learned that Reese was in the final stages of renal failure and would need a kidney transplant.

The news was a shock. It seemed impossible. She was doing so well.

Reese returned home. Put her game face on. Showed her cattle at the All-American in Harrisburg. And everyone prayed for a miracle. Finding a match for Reese would be difficult, the doctors had said.

Enter Alyssa Hussey, 32, of Winchester, Virginia, a special education teacher with the Loudoun County Public Schools.

She is a friend of a cousin by marriage to sisters Claire Burdette, Reese’s mother, and Laura Jackson of Waverly Farm Jerseys. She had been among the friends and family tested to find a match. Alyssa had met Reese a few times before the fire and had followed her recovery after.

“Being around her and seeing that she’s such a sweet little girl just made me want to try and help,” a humble Alyssa told the Chambersburg Public Opinion in a story published over the weekend before the transplant surgery on Monday, November 20.

The seven-hour surgery to remove one of Alyssa’s kidneys and do the transplant Reese desperately needed began at 7 a.m. at Johns Hopkins after a celebratory time between family and friends and medical staff, Sunday evening.

“What a blessed day it has been,” wrote Laura Jackson, Reese’s aunt, in an update Monday afternoon. “It has been a long day, but a good day. Donor Alyssa is now recovering in her room. Bless her for all she has been through. From what we are told, Alyssa’s kidney is large and healthy.

“Reese is in recovery. Her surgeon was very pleased with how the surgery went. As always, Reese rocked her surgery and handled it very well. Now we wait to see if the new kidney kicks in. Pray that this new healthy kidney takes over and learns to love its new home,” Laura said further.

Reese will spend the next 100 days recovering at home and will attend her school class via the video robot she used when she first came home in March of 2016.

For her part, Alyssa told the Public Opinion: “I grew up (and) I didn’t have any issues or problems when I was a kid, so I knew what it was like to do all those normal kid things.

“I can only imagine how it would feel to have those taken away, still being so young and not being able to experience some of those things that (Reese is) not able to do right now. So, it’s a great feeling to know that she’s going to get those things back,” Alyssa said.

As she has from the beginning, Laura posted on Facebook about this rough spot in Reese’s journey. She observed that Reese “just wants to be a normal kid.”

But as all know who love and are inspired by her, Reese is an extraordinary 10-year-old. She is wise beyond her years — a ‘tuff girl’ with a big heart and a strong spirit and a determination and sense of humor that gives strength, focus and hope to those around her.

And they give back to her, and the circle continues. So many from across the country and around the world have reached out since May of 2014 to encircle Reese and the Burdette family with prayers, cards, gifts, and financial assistance.

This season, it is the kind and considered offering by someone willing to give a part of themselves — and all that goes with it — that is the gift invoking pure thanks-giving.

“We had a tremendous evening celebrating Reese, Alyssa and many doctors and staff,” wrote Laura in an update Sunday evening before Monday’s surgery. “Tonight, we celebrated life and all that Alyssa is offering to Reese. Pray big tomorrow. Bless these two and all involved.”

As they recover from Monday’s surgery, Reese is prepared to take a step back and build herself back up. She told the Winchester Star in a story published ahead of the surgery that she is looking forward to doing inside things during her recovery, that she loves cooking and baking for her family… but the cows that have inspired her fight to always get back are still inspiring her. This time, the calf a-callin’ is Cream Cheese (so named because she is mostly white).

We at Farmshine offer our heartfelt prayers and thoughts for Reese and her giver Alyssa as they recover. (Laura reports the recovery is going well!)

Correspondence can be sent to Reese Burdette, 8656 Corner Road, Mercersburg, PA 17236. Financial contributions to Reese and her family, can be sent to First Community Bank, 12 S. Main St., Mercersburg, PA 17236. Checks should be made out to “We Love Reese.”

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CAPTION and CREDIT for photo

Photographer Bre Bogert captured this image of giver and receiver ahead of transplant surgery. Alyssa Hussey, 32, is the donor match for the kidney Reese Burdette, 10, needs. Both are recovering at Johns Hopkins where the 7-hour surgeries took place on Monday, November 20. Photo courtesy Bre Bogert Photography

 

Day 1: Milk and ministry are gifts that keep giving

12 days of Christmas… with a twist.

Day 1:  I met these folks last summer, learning of this mission to Bolivia that is rooted in Pennsylvania while visiting the Rice family of Prairieland Dairy in Nebraska last Spring. Two stories in two dairy publications resulted at long last. This one was the cover story in the Nov. 27, 2015 Farmshine and another will be found in the Dec. 14 edition of Progressive Dairyman. What these folks are doing is “love in action” for sure. Milk and ministry are gifts that keep giving. They’d love to share the project with others by speaking at dairy, church and other meetings where people have a passion for children, ministry… and milk!

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The Bolivian dairy project committee met a few months ago near Breezewood, Pa. to talk about plans to build a dairy processing facility and future retail store: (l-r) Karen Hawbaker, Dave Pullen, Pete Hamming, Robin Harchak, and Love in Action International Ministries co-directors Jerri and Gary Zimmerman. Photo by Sherry Bunting

By Sherry Bunting 

BREEZEWOOD, Pa. — The people we love and lose in our lifetimes leave indelible imprints on how we view the world and connect with others and where we put our time and energies.

For the dairy producers and industry folks involved with Andrea’s Home of Hope and Joy — an orphanage of individual family units in Bolivia — the ‘Love in Action’ is linked to folks from Pennsylvania wanting to see that these children have the gift that keeps giving — Milk, of course!

The first seeds to build a dairy farm at Andrea’s Home were planted by the late Rodney Hawbaker, a Franklin County, Pa. dairy farmer. In late 2007, Hawbaker and his industry friends — Dave Pullen, a dairy nutritionist, Pete Hamming with AI, and Robin Harchak, a milking equipment specialist — brought their idea to Gary and Jerri Zimmerman of Love In Action International Ministries (LIAIM).

By 2009, they were fundraising, designing and planning for a dairy future at Andrea’s Home.

Known as Warm Springs Farm (Finca Aguas de Manantial), the Bolivian dairy project is so named in honor of Hawbaker, who died in a tragic farm accident in 2011 at the family’s Warm Springs Dairy, Chambersburg, Pa.

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The late Rodney Hawbaker in 2010 with Wilson, one of the children at Andrea’s Home of Hope and Joy, where Hawbaker was instrumental in starting the Bolivian dairy project. It is now entering its next phase named in Hawbaker’s honor as Warm Spring Farm. Photo by Karen Hawbaker

“This was Rodney’s passion,” recalls his wife Karen during a planning meeting of the LIAIM dairy committee just off the Breezewood exit of the Pa. turnpike recently. Karen runs the 160-cow dairy in Franklin County and has taken Rodney’s place on the LIAIM board and dairy committee as well as volunteering with daughter Kirsten to help with the dairy’s progress at Andrea’s Home.

“Rodney was instrumental in helping design the barn as well as spearheading the initial fundraising through our church and a heifer sale in September of 2009,” Karen relates. “Rodney, Pete, Dave and Robin really dug into this, and we would travel to Bolivia every few months to work with the children and provide labor for the barn.”

Andrea’s Home, too, has its history — so-named for the Zimmermans’ youngest daughter Andrea, whom they had lost to cancer. Gary, a carpenter, and Jerri, a teacher, continued their mission work by fulfilling Andrea’s dream to focus the mission work on children. Thus, they set up Andrea’s Home of Hope and Joy through LIAIM. With the advent of the dairy project, the concept of Andrea’s Home has the potential to become a somewhat self-sustaining model for the future.

Divided into four 2-parent / 20 child units, Andrea’s Home currently serves 63 children with plans to build four more to serve 120 children. The dairy has become a key aspect of the planning to realize the goals of expanding Andrea’s Home and to build at a second location.

The heifers and bull for the dairy were delivered in 2014, with calvings ramping up through the summer and fall. Now plans are underway to build a processing facility and retail store.

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Cows are housed on a bedded pack and milked in eight stalls using a vacuum and bucket system — doable with limited funds and infrastructure. Photo by Karen Hawbaker

 

The cow-to- consumer dairy has a fourfold purpose: Nutrition for the children, education and skills for the children, a business plan that improves the community infrastructure while employing members of the community, and eventual retail dairy sales to support the growth and mission of Andrea’s Home.

The nearby town of Guayaramerin is home to over 40,000 people. The region is isolated and poor with many children orphaned by tough lives on the street. Being just a mile from the Brazilian border — where coffee houses proliferate — the hope is that Warm Spring Farm can provide a source of milk for the orphanage, the town and additional offshoot sales to tourists crossing the Brazilian border, through a coffee and smoothie house run by the home.

“We are looking for others in this compassionate dairy industry with the heart to come down to Bolivia and help with the processing end of what we are planning,” Gary Zimmerman explained. “We want to have the capability to produce milk and also yogurt, butter and ice cream with the whole project providing a source of revenue for the orphanage, as well as learning opportunities, work and nutrition for the orphans.”

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Robin Harchak works on the milking parlor. The challenge will be to convert to more advanced technologies as the dairy processing construction is planned. Photo by Karen Hawbaker

“We’re ministering to the needs of the orphans, and also trying to change the culture of what they return to for their futures and that of the region,” he added. For example, when the children age-out of the home, they will have skills and a purpose and something to turn to and a good base on which to continue their education.

Gifted 230 acres of land by the veterinarian who today serves as the farm’s director, they have stocked natural springs with fish and planted orchards and gardens, along with the work of getting the dairy up and running.

The processing and retailing idea began to form when five acres became available last year in the nearby town of Guayaramerin. With a location to build a retail store, the processing facility plan became the logical next step.

Since 2008, the group closest to the Warm Spring Farm project have worked to raise funds and to gather and send work crews to build the dairy. Now that the focus has shifted to processing and retail construction, they are reaching out in search of folks with this expertise. One such person is David Rice, a former Berks Countian who has two sons dairying near Kempton, Pa. and a son that is manager and partner in Prairieland Dairy out in Firth, Nebraska.

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Dave and Gloria Rice of Firth, Nebraska (formerly from Berks County, Pa.)

Rice bring his building and dairy background, along with knowledge of the milk bottling and ice cream making at Prairieland, to his volunteer trips to Andrea’s Home.

He observes that, “Not only will the young people learn agriculture and industry skills, they will also learn the business side of operating the future store.”

“All the profits will go back to benefiting the home, and to build a second home with the idea that the business can be developed to cover 65 to 75 percent of the cost of the home’s operation, which now relies mostly on donations,” Zimmerman explains.

While the dairy’s initial cowherd consists of a native breed suited to the climate of life right on the Equator, the dairy committee plans to improve the herd with good milking genetics via AI crossbreeding.

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As first calvings and milking are underway, the director brings milk to the home from his own primarily beef herd, and the children learn to make dairy products for their own use.

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Karen and Rodney Hawbaker’s daughter Kirsten with children at Andrea’s Home of Hope and Joy.

While there are no other dairies in this poor region of northeast Bolivia, the LIAIM dairy committee, and the folks at the home, have toured Brazilian dairies to look at cropping systems and forage ideas such as sugar cane and yucca root, which can be fed as green chop to boost dietary energy for more milk production.

 

The milking facility uses a vacuum and bucket system, which serves well its current purpose.

“Bolivia is the poorest South American country, and this LIAIM ministry seeks to reach the children here to provide the nutrition of milk while teaching business and industry skills that they can learn to be a part of,” Karen Hawbaker added. “We want to raise them and equip them for life. What better way to teach work habits and skills then through dairy.”

Hamming noted that the kids just love the dairy farm, the animals, seeing things grow, and are anxious to see the whole project move forward.

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Karen Hawbaker at Andrea’s Home…

Rodney’s good friend and area veterinarian Corey Meyers, DVM, wrote of Hawbaker after his passing: “Rod knew his purpose in life. He got it. Just days before the accident he had commented to friends in a Bible study in Ecclesiastes: ‘When I hear of a righteous man dying, I take it as a challenge or as a reminder that you never know when your time is up. Live each day as if it were your last.’”

Members of the LIAIM dairy committee are also interested in speaking at dairy meetings to raise awareness of the Bolivian dairy project at Andrea’s Home of Hope and Joy.

To learn more visit www.myloveinaction.com. Director Gary Zimmerman can be contacted at 719.440.6979 or email liaim@aol.com

Farmshine

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How dairy farmers dealt with ‘Polar Vortex’

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, January 10, 2014

BROWNSTOWN, Pa. — While some of the photos posted by dairy farmers on their farm Facebook pages and Twitter were downright beautiful, others spoke volumes about the extreme challenges and dedication put forth to care for animals on farms this week during what is being called the “polar vortex.”

LuAnn Troxel captured this beautiful image at Troxel Dairy Farm. Behind the beauty was more snow and extreme temps.

LuAnn Troxel captured this beautiful image at Troxel Dairy Farm. Behind the beauty was more snow and extreme temps.

The extreme temperatures Tuesday and Wednesday were the talk of both the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg and of farmers who were able to get away and attend the Keystone Farm Show in York, Pa. this week.

Frozen waterers, vacuum pumps, manure removal equipment and difficulty starting feeding equipment were the most commonly reported concerns shared by producers from New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia who were able to get to the show in York.

Further North and West into the lake regions of the Upper Midwest, through Northern Indiana and Ohio into western New York and Northwest Pennsylvania, the “polar vortex” was amplified by the snow storm preceding it.

Thankfully, by the time you read this, warmer temperatures are forecast to prevail and bring relief to cattle and caretakers as well as equipment and transportation.

The mantra this week for farm families was to not only take care of their animals but to communicate what they were doing with their farm and non-farm “followers” on Facebook,

“There are no ‘snow days’ on the farm,” wrote Tricia Adams at her family’s Hoffman Farms page on Facebook. Three generations of the Hoffmans milk 700 cows near Shinglehouse, Potter County, Pennsylvania.

3 generations of the Hoffman family operate the 700-cow dairy.

3 generations of the Hoffman family operate the 700-cow dairy.

“The extreme weather makes us feel like we are surviving it and not thriving in it!” she said in an email interview Wednesday, reporting Tuesday’s low at Hoffman Farms was -18 with a high of -4. The mercury fi nally reaching a high of 12 degrees Wednesday. They are thankful to be spared the additional 3-feet of snow that fell just north of them in New York.

As for the polar temps and wind chills, “we run a heater in the parlor to help with frozen milkers but even that was icing up,” said Tricia, adding that the conditions for the cows in the freestall barns were “very slippery.”

The Hoffmans, like other farmers dealing with these conditions, did their best to cope with frozen, caked manure in the walkways, barns and parlor — not to mention frozen waterers, feed mixers and tractors freezing up as the off-road diesel gummed up.

Starting equipment and dealing with manure were difficult in double-digit below zero weather, not to mention the wind chill.

Starting equipment and dealing with manure were difficult in double-digit below zero weather, not to mention the wind chill.

“We changed fuel fi lters and used additives to thin the fuel and keep our equipment running,” Tricia explained. “Winter is tough, and up here we are prepared for it; but when it gets this extreme, you know there is only so much you can prevent. What you can’t prevent you just have to deal with as it happens.”

Much attention was paid to the especially important job of “tricky calvings.” At Hoffman Farms, Tricia used heated boxes for the newborn calves.

Tricia Adams pictures one of the heated boxes for newborn calves at Hoffman Farms

Tricia Adams pictures one of the heated boxes for newborn calves at Hoffman Farms

Over in Bradford County near Milan, Pa. Glenn and Robin Gorrell were thankful for the 45 degrees and rain over the weekend to melt the snow at their 600-cow dairy before the sub-zero temperatures arrived Tuesday.

Glenn reported temperatures ranging -10 to -20 depending on location in the hills or valleys.

“I think that we were lucky here and we are always happy the rest of our team helps get us through,” said Glenn in an email interview Wednesday.

“The wind was the killer. It can really drive the cold everywhere,” he said, adding that they had frozen pipes in the employee house for the first time ever.

“In the tie-stall barn we were like everybody else: Bowls on the west side were frozen. The milk house froze for the first time in years. We thought we had all the equipment ready with new fi lters and more fuel conditioner, but we were wrong,” he explained. “We needed to cut more with kerosene and put tarps around hoods of the loader tractor and feed mixer.”

The calves and youngstock at Gorrell Dairy got extra bedding and a little more grain to get them by.

“Robin always has calf jackets on them once it is below 50 degrees anyway,” Glenn reported. “We tried to double up feeding our heifers so we would have less equipment to start in the extreme cold.”

At Troxel Dairy Farm Laporte County, near Hanna, Indiana, conditions were quite severe, with extreme low temps in line with what farmers were seeing in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota this week.

Facebook followers commented that the cows must be “milking ice cream” as they read LuAnn Troxel’s posts about dairying in temps that had fallen to -12 and -17 with wind chills as low as -53 in northern Indiana on the heels of over 1-foot of snow.

The cows were "good sports" but after three days, the extreme cold wore think on man and beast.

The cows were “good sports” but after three days, the extreme cold wore think on man and beast.

Calling the cows “good sports,” LuAnn acknowledged how tough this week has been for man and beast. She and husband Tom and son Rudy, operate the 100-cow dairy.

“Cold weather management is really not too complicated,” said Tom Troxel, DVM, who in addition to the dairy farm has South County Veterinary practice.

“Cows need to have plenty of feed and water, be out of the wind, and have a dry place to lie down. If they have these things, they can survive an awful lot,” he explained in an email interview Wednesday.

“Calves need the same thing, including increased feed (calories),” Tom advised. “But sometimes the threat of scours keeps feeders from increasing milk to calves. There is no question that cold stress can cause younger animals to be more susceptible to scours and pneumonia, but careful monitoring and feeding electrolytes can help a lot.

While it's tempting to do the bare minimum when temps are -17 with a -53 wind chill and there's 14 inches of snow on the ground, LuAnn was out feeding her calves at Troxel Dairy farm MORE frequently to keep up their energy reserves. Snow drifts also help insulate and inside the hutches they are cozy warm with fresh bedding.

While it’s tempting to do the bare minimum when temps are -17 with a -53 wind chill and there’s 14 inches of snow on the ground, LuAnn was out feeding her calves at Troxel Dairy farm MORE frequently to keep up their energy reserves. Snow drifts also help insulate and inside the hutches they are cozy warm with fresh bedding.

“It’s more important to increase feed to cold, young calves. Also, try hand feeding starter grain to young calves that are at least 2 days old,” he suggested.

As for cow nutrition during extreme cold, it comes down to “energy, energy, energy,” said dairy consultant Ray Kline, during an interview at the Keystone Farm Show in York, Pa. Wednesday. Ray has retired from the Agri-Basics team of nutritionists but is as passionate as ever about cattle nutrition.

“Feeding calves more often — 3 to 4 times a day — also helps because they do not have a rumen to heat them up,” he observed. “With the cows, the ration can be adjusted for higher energy, but without losing fiber. Cows normally eat more when it is cold, but a more dense ration also helps get more energy to them.”

He suggests picking out the “barometer cows” in the herd and watching them for Body Condition Score to know if ration adjustments to the whole herd are needed. Ray also urged dairymen to pay attention to waterers and keep them running.

“After an event like this, we can see it in the repro,” said Ray. “The cow will take care of herself first; so what she eats will go to maintaining herself through the severe weather.”

The seasoned dairy consultant also noted that “life spins its pattern back to years before.” While the “polar vortex” this week was new for some generations on the farm, others have experienced it before.

“If you look at history, we’ve had winters like this, but you have to go a long way back,” said Ray.

As for the milking equipment and transportation, Gib Martin, general manager of Mount Joy Farmers Cooperative in Pennsylvania noted that milk pickup and transport required more time and labor this week.

“We had some issues with tank compressors and one truck down, but no major interruptions in the flow of milk,” said Gib during an interview at Tuesday.

Ken Weber recommends using a heat lamp to keep compressors going for cooling the milk. Weber is retired from service calls but still works with BouMatic equipment. He suggests paying close attention to vacuum pumps outside.

“They are the last thing the dairyman uses to wash the pipe line and that moisture in there can cause them to freeze up,” he said during an interview at the Keystone Farm Show in York, Pa. Tuesday. “Just take a pipe wrench and work it back and forth to loosen it and consider using supplemental heat like a heat lamp to keep the pump warm.”

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