While most children his age experience nothing more serious than colds or other minor childhood illnesses, Lance has dealt with far more extensive medical issues.
After spending a good portion of his kindergarten year in the hospital, Lance is now back at Bethlehem Elementary School and enjoying first grade.
Lance’s parents, Doug and Christina Witt, are grateful that their son is leading a relatively normal life after what has been a very difficult year.
Lance was born with an underdeveloped right ventricle. He had his first heart surgery when he was six months old to repair the ventricle. The procedure was a success and for the next five years, the Witts lived a normal life.
“He would go to the cardiologist once or twice a year and we knew what to look for,” Christina said. “We lived our life like he was fine.”
In December of 2008, Lance suddenly became very ill. The Witts took Lance to his cardiologist and learned their son needed another surgery.
On April 17, 2009, Lance underwent open heart surgery. Though the surgery initially seemed to be a success, complications soon developed. Once Lance was removed from the bypass machine, he began having arrhythmias. After nine days in the cardiac intensive care unit (CICU) and a total of 33 days in the hospital, the problem seemed to resolve and Lance was discharged.
In less than three weeks, Lance’s condition deteriorated.
“He was home for 17 days and his kidneys shut down,” Christina said.
The Witts took Lance to Egleston where he was admitted once again to the CICU.
“They did everything they could to get his heart function back,” she said.
When drug therapies failed, the Witts were informed that Lance would probably need a heart transplant.
“We were kind of prepared, but not really,” Christina said.
On June 18, doctors catheterized Lance’s heart to assess its condition. Lance coded during the procedure. It took a team of physicians seven minutes to resuscitate the child.
“After that, they came to us and said there was nothing more that they could do with this heart,” Christina said.
Lance was placed on the transplant list and within five days received his new heart.
A few days after the transplant, Lance’s aorta constricted. As a result, Lance was forced to undergo his third open heart surgery in less than two months.
The complications did not end there. Lance suffered through gastritis, pancreatitis and MRSA before finally recovering to the point where he could be discharged from the hospital.
After 92 days in the hospital, Lance was finally able to return home on August 1.
Christina said though Lance is doing well, she and her husband take nothing for granted.
“We’re just taking it one day at a time,” she said.
Though Lance understands some of what has happened to him, Christina said he is unaware of some aspects of his condition.
“He knows he has to take medicine for the rest of his life and he knows he got a new heart, but we never discussed where that new heart came from,” she said.
Lance also does not realize that someday he may need another heart.
Though the transplant was successful, Christina said another transplant is inevitable.
“They are very upfront with you. They let you know they can’t guarantee how long the heart will last,” she said.
Christina said if all goes well, the heart will last 10 to 15 years.
In the meantime, the family must deal with mounting medical bills.
Lance must take 15 different medicines three times a day. Even with insurance, the family must pay $600 a month to provide the needed drugs. Additionally, Lance has to make regular doctor visits and his parents have used all of their sick and vacation days to stay with Lance during his hospitalization. Christina and Doug must now take unpaid leave when necessary.
Faced with a nearly overwhelming situation, the Witts were truly grateful to learn that members of their church, Midway Christian Church in Winder, had decided to help them.
Nikki Collis and her cousin Coy Sorrells decided to organize a benefit car show to raise funds to help defray the family’s medical expenses.
“They just picked up the ball and ran with it,” Christina said. “They have really spent a lot of time getting this together.”
Collis said she and Sorrells just wanted to help a loving family.
“When you get to know them, you just immediately know that it is a good family,” Collis said.
Collis and Sorrells partnered with the Dixie Cruisers to organize a benefit car show. All the proceeds will go to Lance and his family.
Though Collis and Sorrells have only known the Witts for a few months, Collis said she and her cousin are happy to be part of the fundraising effort.
“If you could just lay your eyes on this little boy, he would just immediately grab at your heart,” she said. “It’s a sweet little family. They’re good people.”
The Witts are very appreciative of the effort.
“That church has been amazing to us – the love they have for everybody,” Christina said. “It made me feel really good that they cared so much about us. It’s overwhelming to know they cared that much.”
“What they are doing means the world to us and we are so thankful for them,” she added.
Christina said she and her husband are also thankful for all their friends and family.
“Until you’re in this situation, you don’t understand it,” she said. “You don’t understand how the other things really don’t matter anymore. Family and friends are what matter.”
The benefit car show for Lance Witt will be held September 26 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Holly Hill Mall in Winder. The event is free to the public. A $5 registration fee is required to enter a car in the show. Plaques and trophies will be awarded including the “Lance’s Choice” trophy which Lance will award to his favorite entry. Food and drinks will be available for purchase at the show. For more information, call 770-307-7533.
In addition to the benefit car show, family and friends have teamed with the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA) in an effort to raise $100,000 to cover Lance’s medical bills. Donations to the Lance Witt fund can be made in person at any Wachovia branch (to deposit account number 3000025117726) or online at www.cotaforlancew.com.