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Witt D.

Witt was born with a congenital heart defect called aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the aortic valve that decreases blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body. Doctors at the hospital where Witt was born told the Deane’s, an hour after his birth, that Witt had a heart murmur. They weren’t concerned. Still, doctors decided to transport him to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt to determine the cause of the murmur. “They were very optimistic about the nature of his heart murmur, and assured us that they were just being cautious,” Norm said. Children’s Hospital doctors diagnosed Witt’s aortic stenosis after an echocardiogram and EKG. Doctors performed a procedure, a balloon valvuloplasty, to allow more blood to flow through the aortic valve. He got to go home the next day. The Deanes thought they were in the clear. But it was just the beginning of a six-month emotional roller coaster ride. Around his 2-month-old checkup, Witt became fussy and his appetite had diminished. During the appointment, the Deanes learned his mitral and pulmonary valves were not working properly. Witt was admitted to the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (PCICU), and within a couple days, he was on the donor list for a new heart. “There were days when things looked hopeful, and we were filled with optimism and then there were days when we were emotionally devastated,” Norm said. Witt would remain in the PCICU for the next 111 days waiting for a donor heart to arrive. His new heart finally came Sept. 22. Even then, the new heart was enlarged following surgery due to swelling. After suffering cardiac arrest, the doctors opened his chest to give the heart room. Witt improved, and three days later doctors closed his chest cavity. After three weeks, he was able to go home with his family. “The team went beyond just caring for our son’s medical needs, but also made sure that our family’s physical and emotional needs were taken care of the best they could,” Norm said. Witt’s charming, toothless smile became well-known around Children’s Hospital during his stay. Few have seen him cry or whine. Around the halls of the hospital, he’s known as the “baby who always smiles.” Now at home, Witt enjoys time in his infant exersaucer (a stationary activity center), playing with his 2-year-old sister, Ellery Kate, and taking baths. “Witt is pretty much content to do anything,” said Norm.  “It’s almost like he understands how lucky he is to be here and how loved he is.” As a heart transplant patient, Witt will need lifelong care by the transplant team. “We are hopeful for Witt’s future knowing that he is being cared for by a very talented and very caring team,” Norm said.