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)

Bryce’s RMHMN Story

Over the past three years, 3,000 families were turned away from the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester, MN because of capacity constraints. “Families travel great distances to our House and often have exhausted every medical resource available near their homes. They come to our community seeking hope, healing, compassion and comfort,” said Peggy Elliott, Executive Director of Ronald McDonald House Rochester, Minnesota.  “We must answer the call to provide love and hope to seriously ill children and their families. We are so grateful to all of our donors and friends for their generous gifts of support to grow our mission,” said Elliott.

As Mayo Clinic Children’s Center grows in particular in the areas of proton beam therapy; regenerative medicine and individualized medicine the need for services at the Ronald McDonald House continue to rise. On average the Ronald McDonald House® serves over 900 families every year from across the country and around the world

Watch our latest campaign video about our former guest, Bryce.

 

Watch the audio description version of this film by clicking here.

 

Click here to make a donation to our Love Tremendously, Hope Exceedingly capital campaign.

Seth’s 16th Birthday Wish

For Seth’s 16th birthday, he chose to celebrate it in a unique way. With our family by his side, he spent hours at the corner of two main highways in our hometown in Wisconsin with a banner that read “Seth’s Ronald McDonald House Supply Drive.” This came about when he was thinking about his upcoming birthday. Every year at this time, I (Seth’s mom) reflect about the start of treatment for the rare autoimmune diseases he has. This very week, eight years ago, Seth’s doctor told our family to go on vacation, make memories and celebrate his eighth birthday. He told us that when we return, we were going to have to start an aggressive experimental treatment. Weekly injections of the highest dose of low dose chemotherapy for a non-cancer patient would begin, along with his already harsh oral medications. There were many unknowns and the doctor was matter-of-fact that none of us had a clue what the future held. Now here we are celebrating another year of life! Seth remains on all those medications and more. We still regularly visit Mayo Clinic for all his medical care but thanks to God, and foremost, the amazing doctors at the Mayo Clinic, along with friends at the Ronald McDonald House, Seth is not only surviving but thriving!

 

Seth got to thinking about all the children at the Ronald McDonald House. He told me, “those kids might not have happy birthdays.” He said he wanted to give items to the House to make the kids happy instead of birthday gifts. He said, “Mom, I am so blessed, I don’t need anything.” Seth made a short video saying jut those words and posted it on his Facebook page. It quickly traveled across social media and we were told by a few that they were making monetary donations to the Ronald McDonald House in honor of Seth. A mention of this got printed in our newspaper and our small community once again rallied around his desire to give back. Our family, friends and neighbors were happy to participate.

 

For our most recent trip to the Ronald McDonald House, where we delivered all these generous birthday donations, over 150 pounds of pop tabs were collected. The owner of a local business, Trinity Homes, heard about Seth’s wish. The owner’s son, a classmate of Seth, shared Seth’s story with his mom who was personally touched. She donated an extremely generous shopping spree for the two boys to go and purchase items for the House. Seth received so many donations; it was quite obvious that a pull-behind trailer would be needed to transport all the items. U-Haul waived the rental fee for the 300-mile one-way-trip. There were many complete strangers that came out to that busy intersection that day. They came with items or cash to donate, but as they met Seth, felt compelled to leave with a hug and a word of encouragement. He was told by many that he inspired them. Many said they were proud of him and let him know they had been regularly praying for him. They encouraged him to keep fighting the good fight. This small gesture of a birthday wish of a young many brought out the best in others. It formed and strengthened many relationships, new and old. Who could ask for a better, more memorable birthday? That is a priceless gift that keeps on giving!

 

-Story shared by Seth’s mom, Julie Bayles

Melissa’s Story

(As told by her mom)

Melissa Webb and her twin sister, Kaitlyn, were born in Stillwater, MN. Melissa developed a lump on her neck around age six and had two surgeries performed before coming to Mayo for a second opinion. We were thankful to get into the Ronald McDonald House right when we arrived in Rochester.

Melissa underwent a 10-hour tracheotomy surgery to remove a cyst followed by a 16 day stay at Saint Marys. The night before her release, I was lying with her when I began to pray. I asked that Melissa go home without machines to help her breathe. A bright light came over the room and I believe that angels were near. In the morning, my prayers were answered – the doctors told us that Melissa could remove her line and would be able to leave the hospital without the burden of any machines.

The House meant so much to us during this otherwise difficult time. The staff made us feel right at home during Melissa’s 16-day recovery. They are such caring people.

The girls are graduating high school this year and planned their graduation party with the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester in mind. They have asked everyone to bring a donation gift for the House. In past years, they have organized a garage sale and even saved up their birthday and Christmas money so that they could donate supplies for the wish list. We love supporting the Ronald McDonald House because it is very near and dear to our hearts. If it wasn’t for this wonderful place, we would have nowhere to stay while receiving care in Rochester.

Even with the discount, hotels still cost a lot of money. Food expenses, doctor bills, and transportation costs all add up too. When we left the Ronald McDonald House, we donated our remaining food to help another family in need. When we stayed here, they were so warm and kind and made you feel right at home. The Ronald McDonald House of Rochester, MN has helped a lot of people and continues to do amazing things.

Melissa reminds us that life is about helping others and being thankful for everything you have.

-Marilyn  (Melissa + Kaitlyn’s Mom)

 

 

 

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