Families of Faith

Pictured left to right: Peter Westby, Jeannie Westby, Haley Westby, Faith Westby, Landon Luft, Lilly Luft, Wendy Luft, Lenny Luft (Photography by Fagan Studios)

Most people are lucky if they have one loving family. Faith Westby has three.

Faith is a sweet, charismatic 15-year-old girl living with a rare, multi-system disorder. During an annual checkup for the girl who already had heart surgery, doctors diagnosed her with a large atypical adenoma on the left side of her liver and multiple adenomas on the right side as well.

Long story short…she needed a new liver.

“When we first learned that Faith needed a liver transplant, it felt like our world had been turned upside down,” said Faith’s mom Jeannie. “It was territory we knew nothing about and it scared us. Her health was never the greatest, but learning that she had cancer in her liver and that she needed a transplant was a complete shock.

“We were afraid for our family and for the family that would be donating the liver that would save our daughter’s life.”

On July 4, 2017, the Luft family was spending the holiday with friends. Logan, a full-of-life 15-year-old boy, was thrown from his ATV, resulting in bleeding in his brain. He was airlifted to Saint Marys in Rochester, but it was too late. Logan was pronounced brain dead on July 5. His parents, Wendy and Lenny, prayed that his organs would be used to save multiple lives.

Long story short…they did.

On July 7, two days after Logan passed away, Jeannie and Peter received a phone call they had been waiting for since the diagnosis. Faith was going to receive Logan’s liver.

“I learned about Faith’s liver transplant on Facebook,” said Logan’s mom Wendy. “Her story encouraged me to start looking for the recipient family.”

Jeannie and Faith (Photography by Fagan Studios)

The Westbys were told that the liver came from someone in the tri-state area, but did not receive any additional information. A news broadcast about Logan made them think about the possible connection to the Lufts, but it wasn’t until Jeannie received a Facebook message from Wendy that they learned the truth.

“I knew from the very beginning that it was Logan’s liver,” Jeannie said. “My heart was broken for their family. It was hard to understand how I could feel so much joy (for Faith) and so much sadness (for Logan and his family) at the same time.

“We waited anxiously for this call, but we also dreaded it.”

Jeannie did not respond immediately, scared that the Lufts would be disappointed with the way their son’s liver was used, or rather, who it was used to save. But that fear was washed away with happy tears after the two finally connected.

“I was scared to death,” said Jeannie. “I was afraid that they wouldn’t like us or that they would be disappointed that Logan’s liver went to a girl with special needs. But we became a family.”

“I was so excited to meet Faith,” Wendy said. “Our families bonded instantly. Jeannie showed me Faith’s incision and said, ‘Your DNA is a part of my daughter, so she is your daughter, too.’ It was a moment I will never forget.”

Logan and Faith are forever connected, as are the Westbys and Lufts. They refer to each other as a second family. And, according to Jeannie, the Westbys have a third family.

Faith was born with her disorder and faces a lifetime of complex medical needs. Her needs directed her and her family to Mayo Clinic for treatment. Mayo Clinic directed her and her family to the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester, Minnesota for comfort and care.

Haley, Faith, Landon, Lilly (Photography by Fagan Studios)

“Walking through the front doors (of the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester) was like walking into a completely different world,” Jeannie said. “It’s such an uplifting feeling; you feel loved. It is home, it is comfort and it has brought Faith and our family so much joy.

“The staff and volunteers are our family.”

After long days of hospital visits and recovery, Faith’s nights were filled with crafts, campfires and therapy dogs. The family was able to stay together, eat together and laugh together.

“Faith is a girl that loves people and all the activities were perfect for her health and happiness,” Jeannie said. “The House has given us so many wonderful experiences and lifelong memories.”

While Faith enjoyed being a kid, her parents enjoyed the sense of community. Families at the House are supported by staff, volunteers and other guest families. It’s a support system that is special and unique. And the Westbys wanted to share that community with the Lufts.

“They invited us to the House to show us where they lived after Faith’s surgery,” said Wendy. “And we were amazed. It’s such a blessing to have a place like that for children and their families. It’s beautiful…it is home.”

Logan and his family gave Faith and her family new life and, in the words of Jeannie, the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester “just makes life better.”

Home is the place where one lives as a member of a family. Home is the place where something flourishes. Home, for the Faith and so many others, is the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester.

Faith (Photography by Fagan Studios)