CHARLES CITY — On July 7, Jeannie Westby and her husband, Pete, received a call from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
For their family it was good news: A liver was available for Jeannie’s daughter, 15-year-old Faith, whose own liver was starting to fail. The price, however, was that it would be the liver of 15-year-old Logan Luft, a Charles City teen who died from injuries sustained in an ATV accident July 4.
The Westbys were flown that day to Rochester from Pelican Rapids, Minn., and Faith underwent surgery for the liver replacement. It was successful, but Jeannie was initially overcome with mixed emotions.
“I think as a recipient, you’re not prepared for how thankful and how sad you are,” she said. “It took me a while to work through the fact there’s a set of parents that don’t have their child.”
Now, however, the Lufts and Westbys have become good friends, according to Wendy Luft, Logan’s mother. The Westbys plan to visit Charles City on Jan. 29, and see much of the community where Logan thrived and was well-respected.
The connection between Logan and Faith was apparent right away, Wendy said. She added despite Logan’s death, it was important to focus on the positive aspect of the liver donation.
“It’s hard for her (Jeannie) to think Logan’s loss was for their gain,” she said. “But like I told her, Logan passed away no matter what. ... The fact he gets to live on is a gift for us.”
Both Wendy and Jeannie said they’re noticed similarities in the Pelican Rapids and Charles City areas — they’re tight-knit communities that have been extremely supportive, given the circumstances surrounding Logan and Faith.
Faith has spent much of her life at Mayo Clinic, as she suffers from Kabuki syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes several medical complications involving growth delays, intellectual disability and other symptoms.
Initially, Logan’s liver was intended for a 3-year-old boy or girl, Wendy said. But after more tests, doctors determined the organ would be more suitable for someone around Faith’s age, 15.
Jeannie said Faith was put on a active donor list for a liver sometime in April, after doctors revealed she scored a 30 out of 40 on the Model for End-Stage Liver Disease scale. A score of 40 indicates the highest need for an organ.
Then, at 3:40 p.m. July 7, the Westbys got the call a liver was available. Faith was in surgery between 7 to 7:30 p.m. that night.
When Wendy found out Faith was the liver recipient, she admitted there was uncertainty — how would their personalities mesh? Would they be friendly?
Those doubts quickly disappeared, however, when the two families met at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester on Dec. 30.
“Instantly, you could tell we would be friends and relatives forever,” Wendy said. “We are really, really blessed; (Faith) is just a little dolly.”
Jeannie said the community support in Pelican Rapids — a town of just under 2,500 — for Faith has been overwhelming.
“She is like a celebrity in town,” she said. “She is just so loved. ... Her class has been so kind and caring. Everybody that has known her has been so nice. ... She has people praying for her that haven’t prayed in years.”
She added she expects much of the same when the Westbys visit Charles City later this month.
“I think she is from a very similar community we are from, there’s a unity that is so exciting to go and be a part of that,” Jeannie said. “We have a huge family in Pelican Rapids, and I feel we’re going to have that in Charles City, too ... the more people in our lives, the better.”