Volunteers worked April 21 at Creekside Stables in Lower Windsor Township to get the property ready for the return of its owner, Sandy Johnson, who will be
Volunteers worked April 21 at Creekside Stables in Lower Windsor Township to get the property ready for the return of its owner, Sandy Johnson, who will be coming home from the rehabiltation hospital May 25. Johnson suffered an abdominal aneurysm, and is now paralyzed. More work days are scheduled, and volunteers are needed.
Sandy Johnston of Lower Windsor Township worked as an IV therapy nurse at Memorial Hospital. That's where she and her friend Mini Truett of Windsor Township met.

In late January, Johnston went for routine bloodwork, and mentioned to her doctor that she had been having some abdominal pain but it seemed to have gone away. The doctor examined her and sent her for further tests.

"She wasn't feeling well for a couple of weeks," Truett said. "It turns out she had an abdominal aortic aneurysm."

Johnston needed emergency surgery, and her 45-year-old son, Larry, who lives in Jackson, N.J., found a surgeon at the University of Pennsylvania hospital in Philadelphia who would do the surgery Jan. 31.

Angela Lusco, plants flowers at Creekside Stables Sunday April, 21, 2013 in Lower Windsor Township. YORK DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS - PAUL KUEHNEL
Angela Lusco, plants flowers at Creekside Stables Sunday April, 21, 2013 in Lower Windsor Township. YORK DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS - PAUL KUEHNEL (Paul Kuehnel)

"It was very touch-and-go for weeks, but she pulled through," Truett said. "She ended up with a feeding tube and a tracheostomy, and is now paralyzed from the waist down."

Johnston, who is 67, has been discharged from the hospital and is now in an acute-care rehabilitation hospital in New Jersey. She has been away from Creekside Stables in Lower Windsor Township since late January, and her son said she's eager to get back home.

Creekside Stables offers horse-riding lessons, trail rides and boarding for horses.

"Her theory has always been to make horses available for those who can't afford them. She has more than 20 horses and many barn cats," Truett said. "She has always wanted to spay and neuter her cats, but hasn't been able to afford it."

Since Johnston became ill, her friend Shelly Howell has been running the farm and Truett has been working to catch and spay or neuter the cats living in the barn. So far, Truett has caught 21 of the cats and had them spayed or neutered.

"I was originally thinking there were about 30 out there; however, it seems every time I go out now there are more and more that aren't ear-tipped," she said.

When feral cats are spayed or neutered, it's common for the tip of their ear to be removed, so caretakers can tell which cats have already been to the clinic.

Ellie Lusco and her best friend Bubbasubmitted
Ellie Lusco and her best friend Bubba submitted

An elderly black mixed-breed dog named Buddy who usually lives on the farm is now staying with Howell. Trish Christine cares for the horses.

Truett said some of the horses are "forever horses," meaning Sandy rescued them and agreed to keep them.

Larry Johnston said his mother has been a registered nurse for approximately 35 years, having worked at a hospital in Lancaster and at York Hospital before joining the staff at Memorial Hospital.

He said she's always been a hard worker, and has made many sacrifices to make sure her horses had what they needed.

"She'd rather have horse manure under her fingernails than nail polish on them," he said.

Johnston said his mother has a special connection with animals, especially horses. "She can get horses to do things nobody else can. She's like a horse whisperer."

Getting Sandy home

"We can't get Sandy home until her house is handicapped-accessible," Truett said. "So, through friends and co-workers, we've made contact with a couple organizations willing to help us get her house ready for her to come home."

She said the big work days will be May 4 and 5, but there may be other work days added.

"The goal is to have the farm back up and running by May 25 so Sandy can come home," Truett said. "We're planning on doing a big open house for her."

She said a physical therapist at Memorial Hospital set it up with the Seventh Day Adventist Church of West York to help prepare the property as a local mission project.

A group from York Seventh-day Adventist Church and a friend of Sandy Johnson paint an old milking building that will be a break room for employees at
A group from York Seventh-day Adventist Church and a friend of Sandy Johnson paint an old milking building that will be a break room for employees at Creekside Stables in Lower Windsor Township on Sunday April 21, 2013 YORK DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS - PAUL KUEHNEL (Paul Kuehnel)

Memorial Hospital employees are coming out to help, and a local Girl Scout troop may help with gardening. Boy Scout Troop 50 is going to build the wheelchair ramp.

Volunteers are needed to help with home repairs, cleaning, painting, gardening, cleaning horses, moving Johnston's bedroom downstairs and more. They also need volunteers who can replace a "milk room" roof, help with sod and help with pulling trees and large weeds.

If you'd like to help, email Mini at mini.truett@comcast.net or call 717-805-9568.

If you go

CREEKSIDE STABLES is at 204 Abel Road, Lower Windsor Township.

From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 25, the stables will hold an open house.

Shelly Howell with one of the horses she says is the most gentle at Creekside Stables Sunday April 21, 2013 in Lower Windsor Township.  YORK DAILY
Shelly Howell with one of the horses she says is the most gentle at Creekside Stables Sunday April 21, 2013 in Lower Windsor Township. YORK DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS - PAUL KUEHNEL
 Stop in to check out the stables, enjoy free food and meet the horses.

After May 25, Shelly Howell will be offering horse-riding lessons for $35 per hour and trail rides for $35 per hour. The tack shop will be open soon, also.

Creekside also will offer full-care boarding for $275 per month, which includes feeding, watering, clean stalls and daily turnout. Owners are responsible for major vet, dentist and farrier fees. Small veterinary services can be handled by staff; owner will be charged for supplies used.

For more information, call farm manager Shelly Howell at 717-683-7949.

Want to help?

VOLUNTEERS ARE NEEDED to help with heavy work, electrical repairs, home repairs, cleaning, painting, gardening, cleaning horses, moving Johnston's bedroom downstairs and pulling trees and large weeds.

There's a need for volunteers who can repair a "milk room" roof, make the bathroom handicapped-accessible and help to build the handicapped-accessible ramp.

Donations needed include sod for the horse fields, cat food and rocks to fill in the driveway.

Workdays are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, May 4 and 5, but more days might be added.

If you'd like to help in any way, email Mini at mini.truett@comcast.net or call 717-805-9568.