In 2010, Danielle Loftus of Springfield was involved in a jet-ski accident that left her with a severe brain injury — unable to speak or eat and limited in her movement. Over the past nine years, the Loftus family, parishioners at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Springfield, have asked the community for prayers and relied on their faith and humor to care for Danielle, who is now 23. Catholic Times Editor Andrew Hansen sat down with the Loftus family, parents Lynell and Jeff, and their other daughters Taylor and Rachel, to talk about how Danielle is doing today, how prayers have helped, and how their faith and humor are the backbone of their family.
How is Danielle doing?
Lynell: Danielle is healthy. She has avoided the flu and hospitalizations. We continue to do therapies with her. She had some seizure activity, but we think we have pinpointed why it’s happening. So, hopefully we can avoid some of that. We haven’t seen a lot of medication changes, so that has been good.
Jeff: There are some new things we have tried, including some laser therapy. We continue to try some new things and throw things against the wall to see what sticks.
What is your mindset going into each day?
Jeff: Some days are tougher than others. You see our two other daughters and their lives continue on and you ask yourself, “What is your option?” You really don’t have another option. We have different responsibilities with each of our children and different businesses we run, and people count on us. Danielle counts on us to be strong. We continue to pray for the strength to continue to do this every day. Some days are good, and it’s almost like Danielle is going to speak a word. She is laughing at everything going on around her. She is present. Other days she is not with it sometimes. The options are to be depressed and bitter and be worthless or get up and try to be a blessing to somebody and be productive because other people are counting on you.
How do cope not having your sister like she was before the accident?
Rachel: Some days are harder than others. After everything we have been through, you want to ask, “Why?” You know you won’t get any answers anytime soon so trusting in God is the only thing that is going to be there. That’s what I lean on and that’s what our whole family leans on.
Taylor: There is not much we can do every day besides make her laugh and make sure she is comfortable. We rely on having our faith in God.
How does your faith keep you strong?
Lynell: We go to church, we pray every day, and we remind Danielle she is a child of God and the same spirit that dwells inside Jesus and rose him from the dead can heal Danielle. God can do that at any moment. We wake up every day believing it can happen today. And if it doesn’t happen today, it can happen tomorrow. Our faith is our foundation.
What has the support been like from the Springfield community?
Lynell: We hear a story at least once a week of someone who continues to pray for Danielle. People still ask, “How is she doing?” Danielle is still in their prayers, and it helps us a lot because she is not being forgotten, and it does give us strength. When you wake up every day, some days are hard. But when you hear about the prayers from others, we can feed off that faith. It’s just God everywhere. God is good.
What is some of the progress you have seen?
Lynell: Because we are with her every day, it’s harder to see what specific progress is happening. But, when we take her to the dentist every three months, he’ll say, “She wasn’t doing this last time.” For example, before, she would not turn her head to look at the dentist when he was about to work on her teeth.
Now, she’ll move her head immediately to the side when she sees him. Now, she’ll move her head immediately to the side when she sees him coming, and she’ll look right at him to see what he’s about to do. It’s hilarious, and then he’ll laugh. We also see more cognitive moments when people come into a room. She’ll turn her head, and when something is funny, she is one of the first people to laugh. The processing is there. She completely understands the conversation and can react to it. She just can’t speak yet.
Jeff: She laughs at things are funny, but if you ask her to squeeze your hand or blink to answer questions, she can’t do that. One day, we hope she will speak. That is what we are hoping for. We’ve done about everything you can do medically. We’ve exhausted about everything mankind has to treat this so when she is healed, people will have to say, “This wasn’t a medicine thing, this was a God thing.”
What is your daily routine?
Lynell: An alarm goes off every morning at 5:55. We prepare her food, which is given through a G-tube. She gets medicines that we usually pre-crush the night before so we’re not stumbling around at 6 in the morning. She also gets a daily injection for osteoporosis because she is unable to move and that has weakened her bones. I give her a shower, do her hair, and transfer her into her wheelchair and into our back room around 9:30 or 10 a.m. Then she starts therapies. She has scheduled therapists who come to the house. She’ll get transferred from her therapy mat to her wheelchair to a standing frame or to an exercise unit we have throughout the day. Noon is feeding, 3 is medications, 6 feeding and 8 medications before we transfer her into bed. We have alarms on our phones set for all of this; 24/7, we care for her.
What do all three of you sisters do together?
Taylor: We like to watch TV (laughs).
Rachel: We liked to watch TV before, and we like to watch TV now (laughs). We like watching old movies that I know Danielle is reciting the words in her head.
How do you look at this accident ― has it helped your family in any way?
Rachel: We used to hate each other (looks at Taylor and laughs). Yes, it was a terrible thing, but I don’t know where we would be without it. I can’t imagine our family without this happening. Taylor and I probably wouldn’t talk at all. But we are now so close. It stinks not having Danielle the way she was, but I know God has a plan, and it’s all going to play out the way it’s supposed to.
Taylor: The situation made us mature and grow up quickly, and I am grateful for that. We have a lot more responsibilities to handle, and it opens your eyes to how lucky you are. It sounds backward, but to have something like this happen to your family and to be grateful for what you have. We saw a lot of people in the rehab centers, and they have it worse than we do. Our family is also closer now. Sometimes, when families have situations like ours, they can grow apart. We didn’t. We grow closer together every day. We are grateful for that.
What do you rely on each day to get you through?
Jeff: You have to have a sense of humor. Laughing is like the number one thing here. We all have a good sense of humor. If you can’t find the humor in it, it’s going to be a long day. We try to find humor in about everything we do. I’m sure Danielle is tired of all my jokes, but it’s great when you get her laughing because it takes a huge load off your shoulders, if only for a short while.
Lynell: Her laughing is medicine for the whole house. A foundation of God and keeping it light-hearted. Staying in faith and hope that a miracle will happen. We all believe it can.