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Please help a little 3 yr. old and her family cope with tremendous medical and travel expenses. God Bless you.

Young girl tragically afflicted provides loving perspective of life for others.
Kathryn Lofgren, who turns 4 in February, has many serious medical conditions and requires 24-hour care. A benefit to help her family with extensive medical expenses will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 29 at the North Woods School cafeteria in Cook.

By ANGIE RIEBE Staff Writer

GHEEN - The Lofgren family of Gheen was in the middle of a game of "Duck, Duck, Goose" a few years ago, when Quinn, then 4, had a big idea for his little sister.
He told his mom to hold little Kathryn on her lap. "When I come around and tap her on the head and say ‘goose,' you run with her - so she knows what it feels like to run," he said to his mother, Kris Lofgren.
The youngster was quite perceptive about his sibling.
Kathryn, who turns 4 next month, will likely never have the ability to run, let alone walk.
Quinn, now 6, imagines that she would like to run and play and chase after her brothers like other little girls. From his perspective, Kathryn is still "a baby." After all, he tells his mom, "she doesn't walk or talk."
But older brother Cash, 7 1/2, has an insightful way of expressing his thoughts about his youngest sibling, who has multiple medical conditions and requires round-the-clock care.
"I think Kathryn likes to be just who she is," he often says.
The little sister whom both Cash and Quinn adore "is a magnet for people," said her mother on a recent day, when - on a rare occasion - Kathryn was out on a visit to Lofgren's job at the Range Mental Health Center in Virginia.
Lofgren held her daughter tenderly on her lap, supporting the girl's head with one hand and chin with the other to keep the child - "who has little if any head control" - in a position that would allow her airway to stay open to breathe.
Co-workers filtered into the room periodically to meet the little girl - each one drawn to the loveliness of her long red hair; each gently stroking, and commenting on the beauty of her thick curly locks.
This was only the second time Kathryn had been to her mom's work.
The Lofgrens are selective about her trips away from their home, which serves essentially as an ICU and is stocked with the medical equipment necessary for her survival. Just a quick trip down the road to run an errand means hauling several bags of portable equipment and supplies when Kathryn is in tow.
It's tough even for Kathryn's parents to summarize their daughter's many disabling afflictions, which include seizures and profound cerebral palsy. Technically, she has at least 18 different diagnoses, Lofgren said. Doctors term her condition as "medically fragile" - meaning dependent on life-sustaining medications, treatments and equipment, and in need of assistance for daily living.
Caring for Kathryn has been a nearly four-year journey full of love, heartache and monetary hardship for Kris and Dan Lofgren, who both work for RMHC's school-based services program called ADAPT - Kris as director and Dan as a licensed psychologist on site at the Nett Lake and International Falls schools.
"They're suffering financially and emotionally," said Sandy Wallin, RMHC director of development.
For nearly 20 years, Kris and Dan have provided endless and selfless care and compassion to others through their jobs at RMHC. "They have touched the lives of so many children and families," Wallin said. "They're two of the most wonderful people in the world," and it's time "to give back to them," she said.
Thus, a benefit fund has been established at the Cook Area Credit Union to assist the family with extensive medical expenses. And a spaghetti dinner fundraiser will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 29 at the North Woods School cafeteria in Cook.
The Lofgrens have never sought help, but are in desperate need of assistance, said Wallin, one of the event's organizers. "We want to do whatever we can to help them at this point."
She noted that a number of RMHC employees did not even know until recently that the Lofgrens have a child with disabilities. Learning of Kathryn's struggles was especially moving to those who met the child for the first time on her recent visit at the center, Wallin added.
Just like everyone who comes in contact with little Kathryn, their hearts were touched by her sweet spirit. Many walked out of the office in tears, Wallin said.
Kathryn has brought both joy and sadness into the lives of the Lofgren family, said her mother.
But above all, she has provided the family with a new perspective on life.
Kathryn's story began during leap year 2008.
After a rather "uneventful" pregnancy with the couple's third child, Kris Lofgren gave birth to Kathryn Elizabeth Lofgren on leap day - Friday, Feb. 29.
It was joyous news to learn that a baby girl would join her two big brothers in the Lofgren family. And it appeared that, like her oldest brother, she would also have red hair.
Initially, Baby Kathryn seemed as healthy as could be, Lofgren said on this recent day as she cradled the little girl in her arms, with friends and co-workers Wallin and Cara Jacka nearby.
Kathryn's Apgar scores, which test a newborn's immediate health, were perfect 10s.
But in less than 24 hours, a nurse noticed something "not quite right" with Kathryn's gaze; perhaps she had experienced a seizure. Baby and mother were transported to St. Mary's Medical Center (now Essentia Health) in Duluth, so Kathryn could be evaluated at its neonatal intensive care unit.
Again she passed all the tests - until it came to the scans of her brain.
On Tuesday morning, March 4, - Cash's 4th birthday - Lofgren met with a neurologist. Her husband was at home for their son's party. Alone, Lofgren received the devastating news: Kathryn's brain was very abnormal. The frontal lobe was small and there were calcifications within the brain that were blocking the pathways of proper functioning.
The doctor gave Lofgren three prognoses: Kathryn would most likely "never walk, never talk, or have cognitive function."
Lofgren was sure the neurologist had somehow shown her pictures of the wrong child's brain. "I thought, ‘This just can't be. This can't be the scan of my brand-new baby's brain.'"
It's "presumed," Lofgren said, that Kathryn's brain damage occurred due to an undetected Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection Lofgren contracted while pregnant.
The common virus often has no symptoms and is usually harmless. However, it can have disabling or fatal consequences when it infects a baby in the womb, where it targets the brain of an unborn baby resulting in a wide range of neurodevelopmental disabilities.
Essentially, Kathryn sustained a traumatic brain injury in utero.
The Lofgrens met with the neurologist the following day. "I just bawled," Kris Lofgren said, tears in her eyes. "I remember squeezing Dan's hand so tight, thinking this can't be real."
"And then you went to Holland," said Jacka, ADAPT program assistant.
Lofgren nodded and smiled. "Yes, then I took a little trip to Holland," she said, referring to Emily Perl Kingsley's literature called, "Welcome to Holland." It explains that raising a child with a disability is like planning and anticipating a trip to Italy, only to discover the plane has landed in Holland - a place that is different and less flashy than Italy, and that poses new challenges, but that is beautiful nonetheless.
Lofgren spent much time wondering "how can I fix this?"
Her husband's reaction was different, she said. "He cried during the drive back home from Duluth," but soon was ready "to move to the next step," she said. He was quicker to accept the news and "see her gifts."
"I didn't have it all built up," Dan Lofgren said, by phone, of a dad's expectations for a daughter, such as seeing her off on prom night. He chose to focus on what the family "gained with Kathryn," not what was lost. "I wanted to figure out why she is here and what she would be able to do."
Although their perspectives were a bit different at the time, Dan and Kris launched on their journey into an unknown territory they had not prepared to explore.
The initial leg of the journey was focused on "feeding issues ... on trying to nurse her," Kris Lofgren said. Kathryn had trouble swallowing and moving facial muscles to "latch on."
With the assistance of a public health nurse, they sought a way to "get nutrition in her," such as temporary feeding tubes, Lofgren said.
Feeding remained the pressing issue until, at 3 months old, Kathryn had her "first identifiable seizure." Typically during a seizure, Lofgren said, Kathryn will stop breathing and turn blue. "There's sometimes eye darting and eye rolling" and her lips may quiver.
"In the beginning, she was turning blue more than she was not," said her mother, and there were dilemmas in determining the right medications and ways to administer them.
Nine months into the journey - and after spending three days of struggling to get Kathryn to drink 4 ounces of formula - her parents and medical staff made the decision to outfit the child with a gastrostomy tube. The g-tube, a surgically implanted tube in the stomach with an external "button" on the abdomen, became the new way to deliver liquid nutrition and medication into Kathryn's small body.
Not long after that began "two years of her absolutely in pain," Lofgren said. "She was crying and screaming for 24 hours a day, multiple days in a row. So long and so often that by the fourth day she'd lose her voice."
Everyone tried to figure out why. Eventually, doctors at Gillette Children's Hospital in St. Paul concluded it was "central brain irritability syndrome" - basically, neurological pain, Lofgren said.
Kathryn's list of medications grew longer with the new meds to manage her pain.
"So many things were happening at the same time," Lofgren said.
The family went from working with local physicians to teams of doctors and therapists and specialists at several hospitals, including Gillette.
Two in-home nurses care for Kathryn on weekdays; the remainder of the time her parents juggle monitoring her, administering numerous medications, scheduling appointments and tending to the needs of their other children.
Kathryn has significant upper airway obstruction, restrictive lung disease and secretion issues that "block her ability to breathe well," Lofgren said.
She must be on monitors throughout the night and occasionally during the day. The monitors sound many times every night.
"Sometimes we have to put oxygen on her," said her mother. Other times, she just needs to be positioned differently.
Additionally, "she can't regulate her body temperature," and her environment cannot be too warm, Lofgren said.
Resuscitation equipment, a suctioning machine and medications are just some of things that must be packed each time Kathryn leaves the house, she said. "It's never just grab and go."
Kathryn also has significant muscle tone issues, which require her to wear multiple orthotics, including braces on her hips, hands, legs and soon on her neck. They "help to keep her body in a more natural position, to teach her brain how her muscles should be," Lofgren said. "She gets physical therapy almost every day."
Kathryn's seizures are now "partially controlled" with medication, although they still occur somewhat frequently. Her pain issues have also lessened, but some of her main doctors are still in the area of pain management.
"Kathryn is one of our most talked about cases at Gillette," a staff member once told Lofgren.
"There aren't really any answers" regarding her daughter, Lofgren said. "It's more about managing her symptoms. There's not enough research on kids like Kathryn. ...
"The boys worry every time she's in the hospital. They ask if she's going to die. It's so hard because I can't guarantee that she won't. Dan tells them she's in a really good place where they'll take really good care of her," said Lofgren, who concentrates on loving her daughter day to day.
"I can hold her and love her and rub her back and read stories and hope she's here for another day."
The likelihood Kathryn will ever walk is slim to none, Dan Lofgren said.
However, it's more important to Kathryn's family to devise ways for her to communicate and have the best quality of life possible.
No one knows just how much she understands, said her mother. "She responds to voices and music. She hears us giggle and she giggles." She makes noises if it takes her mother too long to acknowledge her when returning home from work. And if she has trouble trying to smile, she gives little kicks.
Therapists have taught her to blink her eyes once to indicates a "yes" response, Kris Lofgren said. Cash and Quinn wait for the blink before they will take a toy they have asked her to borrow. And with the very limited movement she had in her legs, she is learning how to tap buttons and touch screens with her feet.
One day, while on the couch with her siblings, Kathryn kept stretching her legs to get closer to her brothers, who in turn moved closer to her, Lofgren said.
"The boys engage with her," she added. They wheel her around the house in her wheelchair. They put hamsters on her legs to try to get her to move her legs, and if she kicks "they get so excited." They prop her up on her "throne" of blankets and pillows and move them around so her body shifts. "Look, Kathryn's dancing!" they say. And "she has a blast."
"It's amazing what they do for her and what she does for them. She's brought so much joy to our lives and had such an impact on our family," Lofgren said. "She's forced me to stay more in the moment and helped us better appreciate things."
Lofgren remembers one day watching her sons eating cereal and being so grateful that they could "sit on a stool and pick up a spoon."
Dealing with services for Kathryn's care has also taught her ways to better severe children and families at RMHC, Lofgren said.
Kathryn continually has a huge impact on others - in so many ways.
Everywhere she goes - to clinics, church, stores - she draws notice.
Her beautiful hair that catches everyone's attention has already been cut once as a donation to Locks of Love.
In fact, Kathryn's lovely hair has been a sort of tool, her mother said, to help her little girl on her mission in this world. "I think God gave her beautiful hair to make people more comfortable approaching her."
And when they do, she provides lessons about life and love.
"I see her as a way to put things in perspective," said her dad. When people meet her, conversations turn toward "life, not the weather," he said. Kathryn gets people talking about "less superficial things."
Kathryn was even the star at Cash's second grade classroom in Cook last week, when her oldest brother decided it would be good to bring his sister in for "show and tell."
His teachers welcomed the learning opportunity, and Cash's dad helped him answer classmates' questions about Kathryn.
Dan Lofgren said he envisions several things in his little girl's future.
"I expect she will be able to smile a little more" - perhaps communicate better through "buttons" and technology as she gets stronger with therapy, he said. "I expect she will continue to affect everyone who meets her."
Cash, in his young wisdom, is indeed correct. Kathryn is exactly who she is supposed to be.
"She's a way (to get people) to wake up and see things a little differently," Dan Lofgren said, recalling something he told a family member shortly after looking at the images of Kathryn's brain just days after her birth.

"The way it looks, she may have a superpower," Dan Lofgren said at the time to his sister.
From his perspective today, "maybe she does have a superpower," he said. "She gets people to slow down a bit and forget the mundane things. That's her skill."
Though he and his wife never wanted to seek help from the public, "this benefit (for Kathryn) is exposing her to a lot more people," he said.
More people whose lives his daughter can touch. "I guess we should let her do her job," he said.
The "Caring for Kathryn" spaghetti dinner will include a silent auction, raffles and bucket drawings. Cost is $7 for adults, $5 for ages 3-12, and free for children younger than 3
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