Eleven years after Danielle Loftus, then 14, suffered a head injury in a jet ski crash on Lake Springfield, signs of neurological activity give her parents hope to continue.
“She’s still in there,” Jeff Loftus said in a recent interview with The State Journal-Register.
The Loftus family plan to reunite for Thanksgiving dinner Thursday with Danielle, their two other young adult daughters and other loved ones.
Jeff Loftus, 58, from Springfield, and Lynell, 53, of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, said they remain grateful to God for Danielle’s health at 25, as well as their own health, a home spacious in Springfield, stable home with jobs and supportive friends and relatives.
Jeff and Lynell are faithful Roman Catholics, members of the Blessed Sacrament Church and independent publishers of the monthly real estate magazine “Heartland Homes” and other documents.
With their younger daughters away from home and at college and working full time, respectively, the Loftus are dedicated to maintaining a regular schedule that helps Danielle stay healthy and, they say, satisfied.
They said they were prepared to wait for advances in medical science, or a miracle, to cure their daughter, who is unable to move around on her own or to speak. They don’t intend to put Danielle in a nursing home. They take care of her.
Jeff Loftus said he and his wife spent “a lot” on alternative medicine treatments usually not covered by insurance, which did little to change Danielle’s semi-conscious state.
They said they didn’t regret giving Danielle everything from nutritional supplements to neuro-feedback sessions to laser therapy.
They traveled with Danielle to Florida two years ago so she could receive a month of twice daily hyperbaric oxygen therapy not available in Illinois.
“You don’t know if this works,” Lynell Loftus said. “It didn’t hurt him. We will do everything possible. “
The only thing the Loftus haven’t tried is stem cell therapy, which they probably should leave the country for. They fear that the risk to Danielle’s health is too great.
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The family are not asking for money or pity – just prayers – which they have encouraged since the “Pray for Danielle Loftus” billboards were first put up around Springfield after the accident.
The couple admit to feeling sad and tired at times.
“We haven’t been able to fix Danielle yet,” said Jeff Loftus.
Lynell said she believed God had a purpose for Danielle’s situation. “I’m just frustrated with the timing,” she said.
Both parents got emotional at times when discussing Danielle’s future prospects. She could live to old age if she stays healthy, they said.
Their thoughts sometimes become calls to God.
“Either cure her or take her,” said Jeff Loftus.
Danielle Loftus was an outgoing teenage girl who loved to write and draw in her journal.
The accident involved two jet skis driven by adults. Danielle was in the back of a boat with another 14-year-old passenger.
The other jet ski was driven by an adult, an uncle, who had two 11 year old passengers.
According to a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the jet ski driven by the uncle accidentally collided with the jet ski carrying Danielle.
No one on the other boat was injured. However, Danielle’s 14-year-old cousin suffered collapsed lungs and broken ribs. The girl was hospitalized and has since recovered.
Danielle, who suffered “diffuse axonal brain injury,” suffered damage to various parts of the brain and almost died. She spent five weeks in the pediatric intensive care unit at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria and five months at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
At home, she is fed through a tube in her stomach. She is also given medication to control the seizures.
Measuring 5 feet 4 inches and weighing less than 100 pounds at the time of the crash, she is now around 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs around 140 pounds.
She sleeps in the same childhood bedroom down the hall from her parents, who watch her with a video monitor.
Much of the physical labor to take care of Danielle, including bathing her, feeding her and meeting her daily needs, is done by her mother.
Lynell Loftus said she gets up at 5:55 a.m. each day to give medication, start Danielle’s liquid diet and start a regular daily schedule in which equipment and braces help Danielle sit or sit. standing while eating, watching TV, exercising, or just being nearby. his parents while they are working.
Several years ago, the couple had an addition built to their ranch-style home. The addition features large windows that flood the room with natural light and contains Danielle’s equipment, an elevated exercise platform and hot tub, with a ceiling-mounted elevator, to help Jeff Loftus get in. and get Danielle out safely.
Brenda Vail, a physiotherapist who worked with Danielle as part of her work with the Chatham School District until Danielle “aged” out of the system at 22, still treats her.
The Loftus arrange for Vail, who has become a family friend, to work with Danielle for a few hours a week to keep her joints flexible and provide the couple with some respite.
Vail said she could tell by the position of Danielle’s eyes, the smile and the tension in her body how Danielle was feeling.
Vail said she can tell Danielle enjoys conversation, watching the Hallmark movies and being read, especially the Harry Potter books, “Black Beauty” and the Fablehaven fantasy book series.
Vail said she enjoyed being part of it all and “helping someone with the resources I have.”
She said Lynell and Jeff Loftus have done a “phenomenal job” keeping Danielle on a regular schedule and providing the best possible quality of life.
Life goes on
Life has also progressed for the sisters of Danielle, Rachel, 20, and Taylor, 22.
Rachel is a student at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, majoring in criminal justice with a double major in forensic science and psychology.
Taylor, a graduate of Missouri University of Science and Technology, is a nuclear engineer working for the federal government in Knoxville, Tennessee. She is engaged next year to a man she first met at Glenwood High.
Jeff Loftus continues to play drums in a local band called “After Sunset”.
Danielle and her parents all contracted COVID-19 during a trip to Florida in February, but only experienced mild symptoms.
Going forward, Lynell Loftus has said her husband is the “rock” of the family as everyone takes care of Danielle’s future. Lynell said her emotions are more variable.
She said she continued to fervently believe “a miracle is coming”.
Friends come to the Loftus house every week to pray. Lynell Loftus also reads her Bible and finds Joel Osteen’s sermons motivating and heartwarming.
Jeff Loftus said he considered Danielle’s situation “30,000 feet”.
“The big picture is that she is still here and is still healthy,” he said.
Danielle may have already fulfilled her destiny, said Jeff Loftus. The CaringBridge.org family blog, where Lynell regularly posted, features many articles from people who have said their faith has been renewed by Danielle’s story.
Jeff Loftus and his wife said they were careful not to view their situation as more difficult than anyone else’s.
“Everyone is fighting against something,” he said.