Friday, December 9, 2011

Greetings from the bedside

Hello. This is Matt. Again. I guess my wife doesn't want to talk with you guys anymore. Either that, or she has a few other things on her mind. She did, after all, push a rather large object out of her body just yesterday. And that rather large object ended up having open-heart surgery, so can you blame her? I think not.

Yes, I'm sitting here at the hospital, next to my beautiful daughters little bed. It's almost 10 pm, and I'm the last of the vigilantes to stay here. All others have retired to other buildings around the greater Puget Sound area for some much needed rest. Please - don't feel sorry for poor little ol lonely me. I am far from lonely. How could I be? I am accompanied by my precious little daughter, baby Anna Joy. She is laying (or is it lying? I can never remember - even after all of those English classes I took...) there, sleeping peacefully and comfortably. Is there anything more precious than a sleeping baby?

I submit that there is. A sleeping baby who had open-heart surgery one day ago and is sleeping her way to health. That is more precious. And I wager that all of you who have gone through similar situations can agree. Of course, there is always the fear that something's not right, that something's going to go wrong, and something bad is going to happen. But as I sit here, in the relative peaceful quiet of the ICU after-hours, I can believe that all is okay with our little baby.

I just watched two nurses roll Anna a little bit to change her position. They disconnected one of her tubes for a few seconds to make the move easier and to protect the tubes from kinking up. The alarms began to go off and within seconds other members of the team came into Anna's room to make sure everything was okay. How many times have I been in a hospital room that some sort of alarm is going off and everyone just ignores it? Too many to count. And one little alarm goes off in Anna's room and several people jump? How cool is that?

Well, I haven't been in that many hospital rooms...

Going back to the people who have lived our experience before - you all know how easy it is to fear, don't you? For those of you who haven't lived it, I'm sure you can imagine. However, I'm sorry to say you probably can't understand. But thanks for trying anyway. (Wow, that was kinda harsh, wasn't it? Sorry...). Just this morning I was in bed, in that dreamy in-between stage when you're not really awake or asleep. And I thought something like "is she going to alright? are we going to be able to take her home? will Isaac get to be a big brother to Anna?" Then the power of the prayers of the saints kicked in. I could almost hear Jesus whisper in my ear "I am with you." Then my mind gratefully sunk back into the blissful forgetfulness of sleep. And I rested in the arms of my Lord for a little bit longer, knowing without a shadow of a doubt that He held my little girl in his very capable hands.

Yes, I'm getting a little sappy tonight. Blame it on the lack of sleep (or should I say the "fitfulness of trying to sleep but not really sleeping well because of...), but it's there. Or maybe it's because I confiscated my wife's laptop so she wouldn't be tempted to get on it and stay up way too late and her sentimentality is rubbing off on me as I write. By the way, the reason I'm all alone at the hospital is because visiting hours for anyone who is not a parent/caregiver is over at 8 pm, so all of our fellow bedside sitters went home. And Alissa went back to the hotel to sleep there, staying the night with her mom and dad. I hope they all sleep well and rest in the arms of our Lord too.

Now, on to more non-sappy stuff. It's been great reading all of the comments that have been posted on the blog. And for all of you doubting-Thomaser's: yes, I have read every single one, even the ones from Argentina, Africa, Finland and all of the other crazy countries that are represented. By the way - what?!?! Who are all of you and why do you care?!?!

Okay - I know some of you, like my old Buddy from high school youth group, my roommate from college, a former girlfriend-turned-good-friend and the old family friend-turned-co-worker at Garts. I know why you and the others we know care, but the ones who don't know us? Well - while I may not understand why you are here reading this post, I'm grateful. Reading all of the posts helps me fill my tank up for the day. I can use all of the positive reinforcement I can get, and your words of encouragement go a long way for me.

Somehow, Anna's story has reached far and wide. And gauging from all of your comments, apparently her life has impacted a lot of you in a very good way. Who woulda thought, huh?

So, again, thank you. I did warn you I would say that again, didn't I? While I would like to imagine that you are all reading this blog because you can't take your eyes away from the melodious, poetic, mesmerizing words of my writing, I know that God has placed Anna's story into your heart. Why? I don't know. But maybe, just maybe, God is trying to show His power is still at work in the world today. We still don't know the ultimate outcome of Anna's story and life, but we know that God is present - not just in, but IN - her story.

I'm thinking this post is getting a little off track and helter-skelter. So I think I'll take a little of that advise a lot of you have been giving me: I'm gonna go get some sleep and rest. Hopefully I won't hear your texts tomorrow morning, and I can sleep until 9 or so.

Good night and God bless.

By the way, Anna is doing great. At least that's how I am interpreting what the doctors and nurses and fellows (thanks for the explanation in that comment!!!) are telling me. Maybe I'll get philosophical again on my next post, and go into that thought a little bit more...


  1. You being encouraged encourages me to continue to encourage you... follow? Ya, you're not the only one who rambles when writing late at night! Thanks for the updates; my co-workers asked me all day today, "Any news?" Anna's story is compelling and it's with joy that I share it with those around me. It's amazing to see God at work in the body of someone so little. Get some sleep! Anna doesn't want a tired daddy!

  2. Ah, I can breathe now! I've checked your blog about 30 times today and am now so happy to get your update, Matt. (Of course you have nothing else to do besides keeping the Peppley Fan Club informed!). Anna's heart has linked so many other hearts together. It is a joy to see and feel. Alissa and Matt, the picture of you with Anna has played before my eyes constantly since it first appeared. Your courage, your strength, your warmth, your love, your openness, your vulnerability -- they have all buoyed me. Through you, Anna seems to be doing her job exceedingly well. She is so beautiful. May each day be better than the one before it for all of you. Love, Susie

  3. You are correct.. there is no way to understand what it is you are going through. I do know that I'm weary from the journey and I've not even walked a fraction of the distance you have. I'm very encouraged by what God is doing. The story is compelling in part because you are my friends and I love you immensely but most of all it's compelling because I'm seeing miracle after miracle after miracle in it. Nothing is more compelling than our gracious loving God in action. Stay encouraged Matt and Alissa, thousands are praying for you and for Anna Joy and I'm one of them.

  4. I don't know you, but I care about Anna and your family...maybe it's because we've been through our own trauma. Not exactly what you're going through, but our own worst nightmares. Life perspective changes a little bit when you realize that "it can happen"to you. We all have our own "it". But we are not alone.

    There are so many people who would've opted out of this trial. Your family chose different. You chose life. You chose to fight. You are the strongest advocate Anna has right now (next to God). She needs you. The stress is huge. The blessings are bigger. Most importantly, your faith will grow. And if it be the Lord's will, Anna will grow up with her family.

  5. It's pretty amazing how many people can bond together to pray on behalf of a child. Although most of us probably don't know you or your family personally- Anna's story has already touched so many other hearts. The faith your family is so awesome to see (okay well actually to read about), to see how you have opened up and have been so your fears, your faith, and in your hope, and to see how that your hope is still in our Lord when everything around you is so outta control. I'd like to say I've been there and to a certain point I have been. Little different story and outcome...but one thing is for sure is God is still faithful, during the darkest hours I could still feel Him and to this day (8 years later) I can still feel Him. When I start to feel overwhelmed with what we went through (and still are)I always take a step back, take a deep breathe, and ask Him to takeover those emotions--cause they really aren't what the Lord has given me..given us...He has given us hope! Praying for your family and all those involved in the care of your precious baby girl and those that are caring for your son.

  6. God is so good!!! I am so Glad You FINALLY posted something. : ) Others have been waiting, checking..and doing a bit of 'oh, no news is good news'....WAITING for your next ramble. Not that I don't understand that you are busy. So glad to hear that Alissa escaped her hosp to join you and Anna. I shared Anna's story with even more people can Never have Too many prayers!! We will continue to pray for Anna's healing. And God's peace through this time. You don't know what might happen as you travel this new road but I know that you are NOT traveling it alone!! I Praise God for Anna's health and the strength God is giving her to heal. I also continue to pray that He will give you all strength. The waiting game can be so hard. Just remember that we are out here praying for you...even though we can't wait bedside with you (you just had to move to the other end of the country!)...We know, that God knows, your situation better than even the Dr's. And you Don't have to know Matt and Alissa, or Anna to Pray for them!! All you have to know is OUR God!!Love to you ALL!!! (You aren't the only one who rambles!!)Praying for peaceful sleep and sweet dreams of playing with Anna at home!

  7. Hi!
    I am a cousin of one of your friends and a pastor in a little church in a little town in Iowa. We add our prayer support to all the rest and praise God for His gift of Anna Joy.

  8. I saw your story posted on Facebook a couple of weeks ago and have been praying for you in this time. We just went through having to watch our newborn at the children's hospital in Denver. The neat thing in the midst of that "helpless" feeling you know and come to understand the sovereignty of God. You also come to see that God's power is just as mighty in you and your wife as the doctors and nurses see the hope that you have in an almighty God no matter the outcome as his power to heal your child if He should so choose. Sometimes the hard thing to remember is that God does not change even though our circumstances change and He always does thing to bring Himself the glory and for us to come to a full knowledge of who He is. I praise God that He chose you to go through this as you are showing what most "Christians" don't in this in our all knowing God. " My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon
    me." 2 Corinthians 12:9

  9. I read because my own Anna(belle) spent over 300 days in the hospital before her first birthday, coming home for the first time at 10 months of age. Heart parents and their journey are near and dear to my heart, and now that she are home, post heart transplant, and doing well (knock on wood...) it is my honor, joy and privilege to follow other heart momma's and daddy's blogs and to cover their little kiddos in prayer as so many have done and are doing with my own!

    That said, praying for your little Anna today, specifically that she can come off ECMO soon and do FANTASTIC off of it!

  10. Hey Peppleys!
    The Arnold family sends love and prayers your way several times a day. The link to your blog is on facebook, so think of how many friends and relatives (and strangers) of friends and relatives are adding to the wall of prayer around your family! Thank you for your updates. They show that the only thing we are able to do to help, PRAY, is making a difference. We wish we could do more. Our hearts ache for you all. Anna Joy is beautiful! God is a God of mysteries. we have a lot of questions for Him, but for now, we pray that he will continue to fill you both with peace. We pray with hope that He will heal Anna Joy. We pray for little man Isaac, that he will be oblivious to the chaos. We pray that God will keep you both healthy. We will pray you through this, one day at a time, my family, yours, and many others who don't even know you. God's family is cool like that! :)Love you guys!
    Christi and Dave Arnold

  11. Greetings from Lativa. Where's that, you may wonder. Well, it's to Russia. Found your story off of a friend in the US who highlighted it on her Facebook page so had to read for myself about the family of faith that caught her attention. Your positivity your family has shown throughout all these issues has been inspiring. Thoughts and prayers from Riga. R Nielsen

  12. Why do we care? Well....we are all in the same family! :) One of my favorite verses in challenging times is 41:13: "For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." Amen. (from "Amma" in Salem)

  13. I am so relieved to see this this morning! As a heart baby momma I know this first 48 hours post surgery is critical and so I probably checked for some word yesterday 30 times...ha. I suppose the goodness that brought out was that it kept me praying all day...hoping it was update free because you guys were finally all getting to spend time with family, meet your sweet baby I'm that sleeping/sedated beautiful way, and rest up! I am so happy to hear she is doing well and can tell she is strong and a fighter! Bless you Peppley are in the prayers of 1000's and I am honored to be following your story and praying for you guys!!

  14. We're still praying and thinking about your family all day, every day. There's no way we can understand for a second what you're enduring, but we understand well the passionate, fierce, protective love for your child. That small bit fuels us to pray continuously for you and for Anna.

    Bryon & Karen(Swanson)Knight

  15. Julie Green (Cavanaugh) passed your story to us via FB. I was sitting with Kelly Miller (Lambert) in a meeting when it came in on her laptop. We were immediately moved to pray for your sweet family. I went home and shared the news with Jim and we have been following and praying ever since. This is a familiar journey of God putting our former youth group kids back in our lives for a season of prayer and support. May you know His 'perfect peace' today. "You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you" Isaiah 26:3
    Jim & Julie Young (Salem Naz Youth Leaders - from back in the day).

  16. I remember sitting next to my little baby girl's isolette 13 years ago. She was in a room with lots of struggling babies. I know those alarms very, very well. But I also remember sitting next to her and feeling the Holy Spirit there too...strongly. So many prayers being lifted up for her and for us, it was warm and comforting. One day, I felt Him there so thickly...all around me....I knew Hannah was I prayed for the other babies that day instead.

    I'm reading your words and it's bringing those days back to me. Stay strong and lean on God. Ever praying....

    Beth Swanson Miles

  17. Oh how your writing takes me back to the nights of sitting by our Georgia's bedside in that very ICU with her heart healing. A friend (Andrea Wealvert) passed on your blog. Please know that as another parent to a heart baby, I am praying. The night before Georgia's surgery a friend sent me the lyrics to this song:
    The Voice of Truth (Casting Crowns)
    Oh what I would do to have
    The kind of strength it takes to stand before a giant
    With just a Sling and a stone
    Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors
    Shaking in their armor
    Wishing they'd have had the strength to stand

    But the giant's calling out my name and he laughs at me
    Reminding me of all the times I've tried before and failed
    The giant keeps on telling me
    Time and time again "boy, you'll never win!
    "You'll never win"

    But the stone was just the right size
    To put the giant on the ground
    And the waves they don't seem so high
    From on top of them looking down
    I will soar with the wings of eagles
    When I stop and listen to the sound of Jesus
    Singing over me

    I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

    I read these over and over....God is bigger He can (and IS) doing the impossible in your little Anna.

    We are heading south to go and serve orphans in Baja for Christmas but please know that I will continue to pray!

  18. Continuing to pray fervently for your sweet Anna Joy! We have been following your story and are so blessed to see God's hand at work! (In case you're wondering my husband is worship pastor at Centralia Naz and I went to school with Katie (Freeby)...Nazarehe connections!) Praying strength, peace and blessings for you all!

  19. Yay! Finally a post, I've been checking and checking! We care for so many reasons, and because of so many individual stories. Our friends know and love you, we have children ourselves and can't imagine the array of emotions, we've been close to losing our own children and we pray no one should ever know that feeling. We've worked at or been a part of UW and Children's and we've seen, and believe, in their miracles. It's also connected some of us closer to faith, and that's as powerful as it gets. Continuing to pray, Jennifer

  20. Matt,

    Just wanted to let you know that all the Richeys from Salem to Tampa are sending our love and prayers. It is so amazing to see God at work in your family; medically in Anna and with constant peace and strength in you and Alissa. Thanks for letting us come along side you in this in prayer.


  21. Hi there! I am friends with Camille and Chris Rodes and little Anna's story has been on my heart since I heard about it, like so many others. You and your family are being covered in prayers. It is amazing what God has done and will do! You have a whole "army" of Christians behind you.
    Thank you for the witty and sincere updates. I have been touched by the faith of your family.

  22. Your post brings back so many memories. Just last May my husband and I were doing the exact same thing, staying late by our son's bedside in ICU, then on G-4, blogging and praying. Those ICU nurses were so great. Kelly, Suzanne (the charge nurse from New Zealand!), Roxy, Nicole--just a few names we remember. The daily rounds with the team and trying to sleep when we could. Thank you for sharing your heart with us and for keeping us all updated on baby Anna. Though we haven't met, Anna's story is close to our hearts. Continuing the prayers for all of you--Anna, Jeff and baby Spencer (fellow heart baby). :)

  23. We are praying you all will have peace that surpasses all understanding. Also for healing and rest for Anna Joy and Alissa.

  24. My heart goes with you. I find myself praying for you throughout my day, asking God to glorify Himself through His mercy to you and to wee Anna.

    Anita and I love you.

    Scott Dakers

  25. Our prayers are with you daily.

    The Gene Clark family

  26. I don't remember if we were at NNU with you and your wife or another family member, but we remember you. We have been diligently praying for your family.
    Our experience was slightly different than yours as ours was prematurity with twins not a heart defect that led us to our hospital experience. I can still hear the dinging of the hospital monitors and see the busy nurses jumping in to get the girls to start breathing again or to get their heart beating again. Yes, these things are going to be remembered by your family long after Anna graduates from High School or gets married. They will be a testament to you and everyone else that hears your story that there is a God. The one and only God, and yes, he is Mighty but yet tender.
    We survived our experience only through the collective intercessory prayers of people all over the world. (as you said "By the way - what?!?! Who are all of you and why do you care?!?!") We had people for years telling us that they were praying for us.
    Keep up the faith!
    Aaron and Julie Bynum

  27. I am still praying throughout the day for peace and health for all of you. Anna is so beautiful and I know God sees your trust in him as beautiful too.

  28. Hi Matt, (and Alissa!)
    Just wanted to say you have been in my prayers the last few days. I didn't know of your situation until then, but I know that so many friends, past and present, are praying for you and Anna. I got chills when I read your son's name- we have some dear friends who we prayed for and watched, and loved through a situation very similar to Anna's about 12 years ago. His name was Isaac. I hope you will continue to feel God's peace and presence through this miraculous time. God can do anything!
    Much love and hugs to you and your sweet family.
    Denise (Hunt) Biggins

  29. It saddens me to say that over the years i have lost faith in god, all the things i had gone through in life, to me made it seem like no one was there looking out for me. but then he laid little anna joy's story in front of me and all the things i had gone through in life seem so small and insignificant in comparison. so i thank you whole heartedly for opening my eyes( well thank you to anna) best of wishes and to you little anna: (i pray for the first time since i can remember that you live, love , laugh, and never lose faith because even when your not looking or not believing, god is all around us, listening, watching and waiting for when we need him the most.)

  30. Give Me Resurrection by The Wealthy West
    You can take my house. You can take my bed. You can take my bones. And you can take my skin.

    But you cannot take my love away . . .

    You can beat my back. You can break my legs. You can lock me up and leave me for dead.

    But you cannot take my love away . . .

    You can give me life and you can give me death. Give me resurrection or give me emptiness.

    But you cannot take my love away . . .

    Give me Resurrection by The Wealthy West

  31. Matt!!! It's Tricia Cauthers, your fellow State Farmer. I have been checking your blog every day for a status update. You are the second person I know that has gone through life or death situation of a new child or child in utero. As soon as I heard about Anna, I began praying for you and your family. I woke up on Thursday praying for your family. In a strange way, a fear blew through me while I was praying. Something inside said “Will you give up the life of your unborn child for Anna?” My first response was to stop praying but I quickly realized that is what was wanted, so I continued. I think that in itself is a testament to the power of prayer. Something I have struggled with my entire life.
    I am so happy for you all that she is doing as well as could be expected. That’s much better than the prognosis right?? You and your wife keep talking about how Anna’s life is reaching others and that is true. I’d like to add to that though, your faith and strength within this time is just as a great of an impact. At least to me anyways. Prayers and support to you guys! And congratulations on your beautiful baby girl!!!!!

  32. Keep updating when you have the chance! Thank you for sharing such details enabling us to pray specifically for the details of Anna's recovery. Your baby girl and your story just brings tears to my eyes every time I read any update. I have two young children myself, and I cannot imagine everything you are going through. But I know that God loves Anna even more than you, and His plans for her are for a future and for hope. His plans are to prosper her and not to harm her (Jer 29:11). And I pray peace for Momma and Daddy as they wait to see the fruitfulness of our faith and of our Loving Father, materialize in a healthy, whole, and well, sweet baby girl. And I pray for quick recovery for Momma, because frankly, childbirth just takes alot (literally) out of you! Bless this sweet family, sweet Jesus! Amen.

  33. we are continuing to pray with you and for you! for peace and joy in the midst. love you all!

  34. Your Blog has been shared with many of the parents of the daycare that I own (we have 103 kids here) and they are all struck with your guys' courage and grace. Of course no parent would ever want to have to go through what you guys are but you guys have a way of showing that people can get through anything. And it doesn't have to be the end of the world. You don't have to shut people out and hunker down in a corner. That maybe sharing and asking for thoughts and prayers is a benefit. Anyways, you remain in my (and the parents of Monkey Tree Learning Center) thoughts and prayers. God Bless.

  35. Thank you Matt for your posts, praying for you guys all the time and especially your sweet baby girl, bless you! So thankful that she is receiving excellent care and tell your wife she is an amazing mom, exactly who Anna Joy needs right now:)

  36. We prayed for you, your daughter, and your family today at our women's dessert get-together at our church (Sandpoint Church of the Nazarene)- led by Jan Lenker. You are in our thoughts and prayers now of all the women in our church. We believe in the power of prayer and we want you to know we deeply care.

  37. Matt,
    You asked about the people who read your post that don't know you and why we care. I can tell you why I do. I was in your shoes almost 7 years ago. My son, Logan had HLHS. We were at Seattle Children's. I can almost guess what room Anna Joy is in. Your posts are wonderful. I know how you must be feeling. I care because I do understand. If your surgeon was Dr. Cohen, he is an amazing surgeon and person. You and your family are in my prayers. I wish a speedy recovery for Anna so she can go home soon. If you and your wife need someone who has been to talk to, you can contact us.

  38. Hi Matt,
    I'm not a relative, family friend or even an acquaintance but I'm a fellow parent, Christian and Pacific NW native. I ran across your story on an internet news feed and remembered my 2 month old son in the hands and hearts of the Children's Hospital staff. I recently became a Grandmother of 29 week preemie twin girls who still reside at the Swedish NICU. Anna Joy is such a wonderful gift of God. My family prays for yours in every prayer and like you, we feel grateful to our Lord for each day we have with our beautiful little girls. They idea we won't be able to bring them home to grow and share with their big sister is too much to even consider at this time. Day by day we celebrate the tiny bits of progress that continue to strengthen our faith and hopes. Thank you for sharing an bless you all.

  39. So, greetings from snowy Alaska again! And, after being in THAT many hospital rooms, you take NOTHING for granted....and, you get humbled beyond words, tears, or anything else. Finally figured out you are in same church as Chris and Mendy Griffith - we are friends of them, and Mendy sang at my books signing when we were at First Church in Centralia in March for the journey and medical mission field God has had us on (go to or to see more) - we were headed to Paupa New Guinea until nope - wrong medical mission field (I'm an trade) and now we are in Alaska and my hubby's boss just returned from 2 years as head of Extreme Nazarene Peru.....see - we're all connected and I 'found' you by a FB posting of the TV coverage of you all.....God is amazing - and you guys just get to show in person by BEING the Reason for the Season.......blessings and s'mores........

  40. Praise God for Anna's progress! Still praying and now my church here in Houston will be praying too. My brother in law spoke today and shared your story. Love you guys!
    Carrie Hays