The Virginia Witmers

What's Happening and What We're Learning


Up and Down

It was another day full of ups and downs. The big up is that John literally got up out of bed! He took two walks without any high heart rate issues! With Andrew and I each holding a hand, and a team of at least 4 people carrying all his tubes and wires, he walked through the whole unit once and halfway the second time. He was screaming in pain the entire time but he did it.

The plan was to walk a third time in the evening but he was clearly in terrible pain. He feels it all over- his back, his chest, his belly, etc. Part of it is that he has only had that one bowel movement and he’s still clogged up but the other is those awful chest tubes. They wrap around the inside of his body so no wonder he’s uncomfortable!

We’re in that cycle of knowing he needs to walk, so that he can get the fluid out of his chest tubes, so we can get the chest tubes out. But he’s in too much pain to walk because of the tubes.

It’s been heartbreaking to watch him at times today. He’s taking more medicines by mouth and hates it. So many people are in and out looking him over, listening here, poking there, and he hates it. He’s being forced to walk with these crazy painful tubes coming out of his chest and he hates it. We know he’s in a lot of physical pain but we all agree that he has some real fear and anxiety going on- and with good reason. We’re hoping to work with Child Life tomorrow to figure out some ways to cope with that side of things.

Please continue to pray for his fear, movement in his system, and the right pain regimen.

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Down and Up

Today began with some problems and concerns but is ending on a much better note. Last night John suffered through awful pain. He woke up repeatedly, sometimes hurting so badly that he was inconsolable. This morning when his physical therapists tried to help him stand up for the first time since surgery he threw up and went into tachycardia. Thankfully the team was able to use his pacing wires to get his heart back into rhythm within five minutes. The physical therapists are going to try again tomorrow morning to get him standing and walking.

John has spent much of the day sleeping. He’s experienced some bad stomach pain from constipation, but we’re delighted that he was finally able to present me with the Father’s Day gift Maureen mentioned in her post this morning! He sipped a little lemonade and tried a bite of applesauce and a few licks on a lollipop. We’re hoping that he’ll start eating and drinking more soon.

While John’s still not himself, we’ve seen even more of his personality resurfacing than we did yesterday. He was genuinely interested in the gifts that his wonderful pediatrician from Harrisonburg brought along with her on a bedside visit, and he was funny and silly during a visit from his brother and grandparents (Katie is still sick with a cold). It’s been a great relief to see John improving over the course of the day.


A Father’s Day Prayer

John had a rough night. It seems like his belly hasn’t woken up yet from surgery. He has not had a bowel movement and is very uncomfortable. Andrew stayed the night and said John would wake up often, screaming and writhing in pain. They’ve done lots of tests to rule out other things and, at least for now, it looks like it’s a very backed up bowel. He doesn’t want to eat anything. They’ve done a suppository and enema without much relief. The doctor just came to remind me that he’s still less than 48 hours post-op and overall he’s doing well. They’re hoping to get him up and walking soon. Please pray that doesn’t cause him too much pain and that gets things moving.

There was also some concern last night about excessive and additional chest tube drainage. The doctor said his was a bit unusual because it was so much, tinged with blood, and outside the timeframe they typically see it after this particular surgery. They did a belly x-ray and consulted with the surgeon but it’s stopped for now so everyone is okay with it. Please pray the drainage stops or at least continues but at the rate and consistency they want to see.

5 years ago, John got me the perfect gift for Mother’s Day that year- a big bag of pee. On this Father’s Day weekend, please pray with us that John gives Andrew lots of poop.


Sitting Up

John is still very sleepy, but he’s less sedated now than he was this morning, and will likely be taken off sedation entirely at some point this afternoon. He’s opened his eyes several times during the past few hours. He cries from time to time, and we’ve seen some signs of confusion, pain, and fear. John was able to tell us that his belly hurt, and that he had to pee. A few minutes ago the physical therapy team helped him move from the bed to Maureen’s lap, where he’s resting quietly right now.



We’re Thankful

for MANY things right now but most of all- surgery day is behind us! After 5 long years of anticipating this day it’s a relief to have it done. We’re certainly not out of the woods but I am looking at an extubated boy with o2 sats at 97 (this morning it was 84). We have excellent doctors and nurses (including his nurse tonight who was one of my sorority sisters!) and feel extremely well cared for. John, so far, did not throw any curveballs and the surgery went as they hoped it would.

Tonight and tomorrow we’ll dance the dance of weaning sedation and heavy pain meds, taking out tubes and lines as soon as we’re able, getting levels where they need to be, etc. They even hope to have John out walking around the halls tomorrow! We’ll take everything as it comes and celebrate each small victory.

At the end of an extremely long day, our hearts are filled with thanks. And John’s heart is filled with properly separated oxygenated and deoxygenated blood so we’ll call today a win 🙂


Still Sedated

5:30 PM

I’m sitting in John’s room and looking over at him as I type this. He’s been stirring some but is still sedated. He still has the breathing tube, two chest tubes for drainage, and lots of other tubes and wires running into and out of his body. There’s a long incision down the middle of his chest. The team is keeping an eye on his bleeding and acid levels but is pleased with where he’s at for this stage of his recovery. They are hoping to remove the breathing tube tonight or tomorrow morning.

Maureen left the hospital an hour ago to rest a little at the Ronald McDonald House and eat dinner with Katie, Ben, and her parents. Please pray for Maureen as she spends the night here with John in his room. And please continue to pray that God would guard John against pain and fear as he comes out of sedation this evening.


Surgery Update #4

2:30 PM

We just spoke with John’s surgeon, who’s very pleased with how everything went. John still has a breathing tube, since the team is monitoring higher-than-normal acid levels. Please pray for that. He’s also bleeding quite a bit. Please pray that the bleeding would stop and that everything would drain properly through his chest tubes.

We’ll get to see John in about an hour. Please pray for us as we see him for the first time post-op, looking very different than he did this morning. Please pray for John as he comes out of sedation this evening. We’re praying that God would minimize his fear, confusion, and discomfort.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)