The Virginia Witmers

What's Happening and What We're Learning


Prayers for Upcoming Catheterization

Every day we pray for John’s health and so far this summer the Lord has answered our prayers!  This Tuesday, John and I traveled to UVA’s brand new outpatient pediatric healthcare facility, The Battle Building, for his appointment.  The new building was amazing!  We feel so fortunate to be close to such exceptional care now in a gorgeous new space.  And thankfully, John was in a great mood for his appointment!  He usually hates EKGs and echos but this time he didn’t seem to mind.  He was a sweet, happy baby, winning over all the staff with his adorable smile and big blue eyes.  Everything looked fine.  His echo still shows a mild to moderate leak in his AV valve but they are hoping the next surgery will improve that slightly.  His weight was okay; they weren’t blown away but he’s still trending up.  He’s now over 10 pounds!  Overall, it was another good appointment.

Before John has his next heart surgery (the Glenn Procedure) this fall, he needs to have a cardiac catheterization.  Basically, the doctors need to do this to get a more accurate picture of what’s going on in his heart to make an exact recommendation for the surgery date.  His cath is scheduled for two weeks from today, Thursday, August 14.  We will have an appointment the day before to go over all the details.  If all goes well, he will be able to go home from the hospital the same day.  If they go in and see something that needs immediate attention, he will need to stay overnight.

We would appreciate your prayers for these days.  It turns my stomach to think about it.  The cath isn’t anywhere near as serious as his other surgeries but it’s still a major procedure being done to our baby.  And boy oh boy have we grown to love this little guy.  He is a DELIGHT!  His smile warms my heart.  And he is so attentive!  Everyone who meets him comments on how alert and engaged he is.  It’s very encouraging to us!

Please pray that the procedure goes smoothly.  They will need to sedate him and that’s always a risk for babies with heart disease.  Please also pray that they see everything they need to see and make the right decision about when to do the Glenn.  Thank you for praying!  I truly believe your prayers make a difference.

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Look Again

The writer G.K. Chesterton had a gift for making the familiar strange, peering and poking beneath encrusted expectations to show that reality simply won’t surrender to cliche. He knew that we long for the astonishing as well as the accustomed, the mysterious as well as the commonplace. “We need so to view the world as to combine an idea of wonder and an idea of welcome,” he wrote. This double need eventually led Chesterton to Christianity. This summer I’ve been reading through his Father Brown detective stories and savoring Chesterton’s eye for the surprising and unexpected in the everyday.

Chief among the surprises is Father Brown himself. Brown is a good-natured, mild-mannered, outwardly unremarkable Catholic priest. According to Chesterton, “I made his appearance shabby and shapeless, his face round and expressionless, his manners clumsy.” You would not mistake Brown for Sherlock Holmes. He’s not the sort of person you’d expect would know much about crime.

In the first story in the collection Father Brown faces off against Flambeau, Europe’s most celebrated criminal. Flambeau is trying to steal a jeweled cross and Brown is trying to keep him from stealing it. Flambeau assumes that Brown is an easily duped “celibate simpleton.”

So it’s very funny when you learn at the end of the story that Father Brown has outfoxed the master criminal. And that he has done so with the knowledge of crime gained through his work as a priest. And that his understanding of the tricks of the trade surpasses that of his opponent. Here’s the scene.

“I saved the cross, as the cross will always be saved. It is at Westminster by now. I rather wonder you didn’t stop it with the Donkey’s Whistle.”

“With the what?” asked Flambeau.

“I’m glad you’ve never heard of it,” said the priest, making a face. “It’s a foul thing. I’m sure you’re too good a man for a Whistler. I couldn’t have countered it even with the Spots myself; I’m not strong enough in the legs.”

“What on earth are you talking about?” asked the other.

“Well, I did think you’d know the Spots,” said Father Brown, agreeably surprised. “Oh, you can’t have gone so very wrong yet!”

“How in blazes do you know all these horrors?” cried Flambeau.

The shadow of a smile crossed the round, simple face of his clerical opponent.

“Oh, by being a celibate simpleton, I suppose,” he said. “Has it never struck you that a man who does next to nothing but hear men’s real sins is not likely to be wholly unaware of human evil?”

In reading the stories I’ve also been frequently surprised by Father Brown’s boldness, and by his way of injecting religious concerns into encounters where they don’t seem to belong. For example, on a later occasion he plays the part of a cloak-room clerk to thwart another of Flambeau’s schemes, and the criminal responds menacingly.

“Stand still,” he said, in a hacking whisper. “I don’t want to threaten you, but-”

“I do want to threaten you,” said Father Brown, in a voice like a rolling drum. “I want to threaten you with the worm that dieth not, and the fire that is not quenched.”

“You’re a rum sort of cloak-room clerk,” said the other.

“I am a priest, Monsieur Flambeau,” said Brown, “and I am ready to hear your confession.”

Brown is a man who cares more about the cure of souls than the solving of crimes, and more about the good of others than his own safety. Other characters in the stories are often puzzled by him, but many, like this young woman in another story, are drawn to confide in him, even if they’re not sure why.

The girl sprang to her feet and stood quite quietly, but with clenched hands, like one about to stride away; then her hands loosened slowly, and she sat down.

“You are more of a mystery than all the others” she said desperately; but I feel there might be a heart in your mystery.”

“What we all dread most,” said the priest in a low voice, “is a maze with no centre.”

Brown might also have said that we dread a center with no maze. We were made for mystery and wonder as well as certainty and rest. Thank God for a world that offers both, and for writers who help us to see it.


Another Good Report and Photos!

John had yet another good visit to UVA today. We are so grateful for a (so far) uneventful interstage period!  Everyone we saw today said, “He looks great!” and we agree. He’s growing well, is very interactive and alert when he’s awake, and even sleeping well at night, up to five hours at a time.  We really couldn’t ask for much more at this point.  Praise the Lord!  The next big upcoming event will be John’s cardiac catheterization on Thursday, August 14.  This procedure will give the doctors a more in depth look at the pressures in his heart and help them determine exactly when the second surgery should occur.  We know that it will happen before the end of October because they want to do it before RSV and Flu season so likely some time in early October.  We’ll keep you updated with specific prayer requests as we learn more.

My best friend Kristin of Kristin Moore Photo came to visit on July 4 and snapped some photos of us.  As always, we love them!  This is a unique and challenging season of our lives and we feel so fortunate that Kristin was able to capture some sweet images that we will treasure forever.  Thanks for using your talent to bless us, Kristin!

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Adventures in the Rain and a Quick Update

John had another great appointment this week at UVA. His team continues to be happy with his progress. He is growing and gaining weight at a good pace without needing to supplement with formula, which makes me very happy! Katie and Ben were exclusively breastfed for nearly a year and that’s something that’s always been important to me. I love that John’s getting the best and most complete nutrition. I’m still pumping and giving him a bottle but hoping to try nursing again soon. He had an echocardiogram (which he hated, poor thing!) that didn’t show any changes with his heart, which is a good thing. We have our next appointment in 2 weeks!

Today marks one month since we’ve been home from the hospital. As I’ve mentioned before, this stage between surgeries is a very fragile period for HLHS babies. The doctor told me recently that over 60% of babies need to be hospitalized during this time, mostly due to getting sick. We are so grateful that so far the Lord has spared John and all of us from illness.

Since we’re trying to keep everyone germ free, we really haven’t been leaving the house much. That means we need to come up with new and creative ways to have fun. Thankfully, Mother Nature has been helping us out! Katie and Ben have recently discovered that they love running around the front yard when it starts to downpour! It’s so fun to watch them!