Trever Miller has been where P.J. Walters is today, deeply concerned
over a seriously ill prematurely-born infant daughter during the baseball
season. Precisely because Miller knows what is involved, he is giving his St. Louis Cardinals
teammate space to deal with his problems separately from their common vocation.
The vast majority of the readers
of this article are probably already familiar with the basic story of Annabelle Faith Walters, born one
trimester early on February 10. Just now entering her second month, the first
child of the pitcher and his wife Brittney continues to
fight for her life in a Mobile, Alabama
Intensive Care facility (NICU).
Miller went through similar trials
almost six years ago. His youngest of three children, Grace Elizabeth, was born in June 2004
with a genetic condition so rare that it doesn’t even have a name, the
36-year-old explains. It is one of only 20 known cases in the world with the
last having surfaced in 1980.
Among the by-products of her pair
of chromosome disorders is that Grace was born with two holes in her heart and
like Annabelle, was not expected to live beyond her first
“Grace was born via an emergency
Caesarean Section,” Miller said. “The prognosis was very bleak.”
Miller and his wife were forced to
make a very difficult call.
“We had the option of withdrawing
support and let her go or (the doctors saying regarding surgery saying) ‘We
can’t give you any prognosis. We don’t know,’” Miller explained. “With her holes
in her heart, it was just trying to keep her body alive. So we had to make the
tough decision to have open heart surgery on a month-old child or let her die a
very difficult death.”
That surgery was a turning point
for Grace and the Miller family.
“From that point on, Grace started
getting a little stronger and a little bigger,” Trever said. “She still has a
trach and a tube into her small intestine due to acid reflux. It has been a
learning process for us and the doctors.”
Now, 5 ½, Grace enjoys as normal a
life as possible, with appropriate precautions taken.
“She goes to school three days a
week and physical therapy outside the home one day a week,” Miller said. “We
take her everywhere we can as long as she is not sick. If she gets a cold it
could turn into pneumonia pretty quickly, then it would be back in the
In another parallel between the
two situations, Walters left Cardinals camp in Jupiter, Florida to return to Mobile last Thursday, one week ago. The reason
– emergency surgery was required on Annabelle.
She was suffering from leaking in
her abdomen. It was determined two inches of her intestines had died and needed
to be removed immediately.
Annabelle initially came through
the surgery well, but experienced a setback on Saturday, delaying Walters’ return
to his teammates until Monday night. At this point it is unclear when the
right-hander will pitch in a game, yet that seems the least of anyone’s
Differences in the two cases
include the fact that the hole in Annabelle’s heart, apparently not
genetic-related, has actually aided her survival.
“The good news is the cardiologist
says that things going on with her heart are unexplainable… and that the heart
actually is working better,” explains new grandpa Phillip Walters.
The pitcher describes the hole in
Annabelle’s heart as “having saved her life,” noting that one heart valve is not
working. The flow through the hole is compensating, keeping his daughter alive,
Walters explained on Wednesday.
Both families have been extremely
supportive with P.J.’s parents residing within an hour of the NICU, Brittney’s
mother working at a hospital almost right across the street from Annabelle’s
facility and a lifetime’s worth of friends nearby. That network helped P.J.
return to Cardinals camp in Jupiter, Florida with a clearer
The family also appreciates the
continued messages of support from countless strangers, many from the extended
Cardinals community. They ask for the prayers to keep
Looking back on his 2004
experiences, Miller worked hard to separate his challenges with Grace from his
“I didn’t want to talk about it
(at the time) at the ballpark,” Miller recalled. “That was my time to be normal
- not to have all that going on. I could come to the park and kind of get away
from it – on the mound. That is where I felt sane. During the time I was
pitching, it couldn’t be on my mind. I had to focus on what I was doing and
doing what comes naturally to me.”
Then a member of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Miller most valued those teammates who didn’t keep bringing up his
“I had some great teammates who
helped me out – Lance Carter, Travis Harper and Aubrey Huff,” Miller said. “They just
treated me like nothing was different, which helped me get through it mentally.”
Miller is familiar with Walters’
situation, but purposely had not spoken with P.J., 11 years his junior, about
his experiences with Grace. He suspects Walters prefers it that way.
“I will be here if he needs to
talk about it, obviously,” Miller explained. “He is a man. He will come to me if
he wants to discuss anything and I will be open to it. I will be a shoulder to
lean on, but I don’t want to kill him with it. A lot of people are coming up to
him and asking him about it. It gets kind of old, discussing the same thing over
and over again.
“That is how I deal with it; how
I’ve handled it. I just treat him like P.J. Walters, a great right-handed
pitcher in the Cardinals organization,” Miller stated.
If Walters’ family situation
evolves as Miller’s did, P.J. will grow from the experience. Miller explains
what it meant to him.
“As I was older, I was able to get
the story out and share it with other people,” he said. “It made us better
people in the process. I got involved with charity work and I started running.
It has been a blessing. We wouldn’t want it any other way.
“Obviously, we were definitely
challenged by this but we love our baby. Would we like it better if she wasn’t?
We wanted her to be normal but it was His job first and our responsibility
after. That is how we are dealing with it,” Miller
As P.J. turns 25 years of age
tomorrow, Friday, March 12, Annabelle Faith will be into her second day of her
second month and counting.
Brian Walton can be reached via
email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation Blog. Follow Brian
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