The Virginia Witmers

What's Happening and What We're Learning


Happy Halloween!

From a beautiful fairy, a tough pirate and an adorable doctor! We feel so fortunate to be home and trick or treating around our own neighborhood tonight. Can you even believe this guy had major heart surgery only one week ago?!

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When Johnny Comes Marching Home!

We’ve been anticipating this day for months, and it felt just as good as we had imagined to drive back over the mountains and into Harrisonburg with our little boy healing nicely from his surgery!  A few months ago we all learned the chorus of the Civil War song “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” which is about a soldier but captures what we were hoping for, too:

When Johnny comes marching home again,
Hurrah, hurrah!
We’ll give him a hearty welcome then,
Hurrah, hurrah!
The men will cheer, and the boys will shout,
The ladies, they will all turn out,
The joyful day when Johnny comes marching home.

Check out this rousing performance of the song by the group Vocal Majority, which includes the following beautiful lyrics:

Day by day, and hour by hour,
We’ve waited in dread dismay,
Fearing the worst would come upon our boy.
Now we can shed the fear,
Johnny will soon be here,
Sorrow is gone, wait for the dawn,
There will be tears of joy!

It has been a truly joyful day for our family. John ate well this evening and is sleeping soundly. Though it is long past their bedtime, Katie and Benjamin are still awake in the room they share, chattering away in the dark as they often do. Maureen and I are relieved, happy, and deeply grateful for God’s provision for our family. We are celebrating His unending faithfulness and the love and kindness of family and friends!



John continued to heal today. He ate well, slept a lot this morning, watched the parade of medical personnel with wary interest, and interacted normally with Maureen and me, smiling regularly and reaching out to feel our faces and grab our hands. His supplemental oxygen is gone and his oxygen levels are still consistently in the 80s, which is very good at this stage. Unless something changes overnight, John will be discharged tomorrow and we’ll return to Harrisonburg! We’re excited and grateful that our stay here may be shorter than expected. John still has some healing to do, and it will be wonderful to care for him in the comfort of our own home.


Step Down and Smiles

Today has been a much more encouraging day. John had a great night and by 11am he had his chest tube pulled, lower oxygen settings in place and pending orders to move to the floor. By mid-afternoon he was out of the ICU! 3 nights in intensive care is much more manageable than 31, let me tell you! And the best news of all is that John has been acting more like himself. He gave Andrew and I smiles today! It has been SO encouraging to see more of our little boy’s personality coming back. We knew he was in there. He’s still dealing with pain and discomfort so we appreciate your continued prayers for relief and good rest. Our nurse practitioner said the words “Wednesday discharge” but we’re trying not to get our hopes up. Thanks be to God!



Slow Day

It’s been a slow day, and therefore frustrating. We had hoped for more progress, especially the removal of John’s supplementary oxygen and drainage tube, but that didn’t happen today. John has alternated between sleep and fussiness. He’s feeling a lot of pain and discomfort, and that’s been hard to watch. We’re praying for relief from this and a better day tomorrow. Thanks for praying with us.


Much To Be Grateful For

We are now past the critical 24 hours post-op period and John is doing very well.  The doctors and nurses told us things would move forward much quicker than last time with this surgery and we are so glad they were right!  Today his nurses turned off a lot of his medicines, removed the pacing from his heart, removed his catheter, and removed one of his big lines. We even got to hold him and he started taking a bottle!  He was hungry and was so excited to get to eat.  He’s done remarkably well and we are praising God tonight for a smooth recovery (except for that one incident last night).  Thank you for your prayers!  Please continue to pray for rest, his pain and for everything to continue moving forward.



A Better Morning

John came through the rest of the night without incident, and the team removed his breathing tube this morning, so we’re all feeling better. John is lightly sedated. He cries from time to time, and is clearly feeling some discomfort. We’re able to touch him and talk to him, and I’m pretty sure he smiled when he heard my voice this morning. We heard a bit more about the event last night, when John coded due to a clot in his breathing tube. The doctors told us that this unfortunately happens sometimes and assured us that John is unlikely to experience any continuing consequences now that it’s all over. We’re optimistic that John will continue to improve over the course of the day, moving us closer to the floor (a step down from intensive care) and then home. Our main prayer today is for John to experience relief from the pain and fear of this stage of recovery.