Lori Hadacek Chaplin is a senior writer for Catholic Digest and a staff writer for the CatholicMatchInstitute.com. In addition, her articles have been published in the Register, Celebrate Life magazine, OSV, and Faith & Family magazine. She especially enjoys writing about about Pro-life topics and personal interest stories. She lives in Idaho with her husband, David, and their four children.
Matt and Kristin Loboda, from Tampa, Florida, and their five young children were visiting family in Phoenix, Arizona. On Dec. 29, 2016, Matt suddenly noticed that his 19-month-old daughter, Joy, was missing. She had been with them just before that. “In my heart, I knew something was terribly wrong. So, I ran down to the Koi pond on the property. I ran around it four times looking between the shadows and fish for Joy. Momentarily I was relieved. But, [then] I heard the Holy Spirit tell me to run to the pool,” writes Matt on his Facebook page.
When Joy disappeared, Matt hadn’t considered the possibility that she was in the fence-encircled pool. He sprinted there, and the sight he saw was enough to make any parent’s blood run cold: there was Joy’s little, lifeless body floating on top of the water. Matt leaped over the five-foot fence and dove into the water, bringing Joy out of the pool, so he and his brother-in-law could perform CPR while they were waiting for the ambulance.
“As I breathed into Joy, I prayed that my breath would be the breath of God into her,” says Matt, a graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville. “In between breaths I begged for the Ruha of God to enter her. Her lips were blue, and her beautiful blue eyes were wide open. I could see her pupils shrinking at an alarming rate. Then I started to pray in between breathes in the words of Jesus, ‘Talitha Koum,’ which means ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise.' I knew we needed a miracle because I could actually feel her slipping away.”
Sergeant Ronald Bryant, a policeman for the Phoenix Police Department, was just pulling out of the police station when he got the urgent call that a baby had fallen into a pool and was unresponsive. Racing to help Joy, he drove right up where Matt was trying to revive her. “I found Joy surrounded by frantic family and concerned workers. Dad, soaked from the cold pool, was doing a great job with CPR and mom, Kristin, was kneeling, holding Joy's head in hands and praying like no mother ever wants to pray for their child,” Officer Bryant writes on his Facebook page.
He continues, “I scooped Joy up and ran her out to the front gate, giving her compressions and a couple of breaths as we ran out to meet Fire Paramedics who were almost on the scene. Fire immediately took over and got to work on Joy's tiny, cold, blue, lifeless body. My heart was broken. I was convinced she had passed.”
With 19 years of service, this was not Sergeant Bryant's first experience with infant death. Joy's stiff body spoke volumes to him. “Everything in me said it was too late, and she was gone, but I had to try everything I could,” he said.
Although the paramedics were doing everything they could to save Joy, Matt could feel the cloud of doom that had settled over them.
As the detective drove Matt and Kristin to Phoenix Children's Hospital, Matt closed his eyes and prayed to God: “‘I know she is your daughter, but she is my daughter too. Now is not the right time.”
At the emergency room, a doctor came in and informed the Lobodas that the prognosis didn’t look good, but that Joy now had a heartbeat. This news was enough to bolster Matt’s hope. Filled with supernatural confidence, he felt in his heart Joy would make a full recovery and said as much to the doctors.
Little Joy was put in a medical coma and placed on a ventilator, but by Jan. 7, 2016 she was responsive and breathing on her own. Kristin writes, “She's in my arms, reached for my face, and said, ‘Mamma.' Tears are flowing, and my heart is so full. Your prayers have been our strength and brought healing to our baby.”
On Jan. 9, Joy was able to latch on and breastfeed for the first time since the accident, and though she was still experiencing pain, she was doing well enough that doctors transferred her out of pediatric intensive care. On Jan. 10, she broke out into a smile and laughed—a miracle. She is making marked improvements every day.
When Sergeant Bryant learned that Joy was recovering, elated, he stopped by Fire Station 17—the paramedics who had worked to save joy—to tell them she was alive. “They were amazed,” he says.
The Efficacy of Prayers
Fr. Ignatius Mazanowski, F.H.S, Kristin’s brother, told the Register, “Her recovery, in my opinion, is a testament to her parent’s love and care and the thousands of people who have been praying for little Joy.”
It surely is also a testament to the most powerful prayer, the Mass. For the first seven days, Fr. Mazanowski offered Mass at the foot of Joy’s hospital bed, choosing the First Eucharistic Prayer because he wanted to call upon the intercession of the saints for Joy and her parents. “To be honest, at first it was simply something I could do, and it provided a way to pray and offer this whole situation to the Lord. Each day, as I said Mass, I saw Joy get stronger, and her parents become more encouraged. I began to realize, in a way I never did before, how much healing comes through the Mass.”
He continues, “One Mass in particular, on the Feast of the Holy Family, became the means through which my sister Kristin's heart found healing as I led her through self-forgiveness prayers. As any parents would, she was blaming and condemning herself for Joy's accident. They lost Joy for three minutes, and Joseph and Mary lost Jesus for three days. Self-forgiveness in such a situation is so important. I believe my sister's healing is tied to Joy's healing, and for sure, it helped Kristin to be in a better place to help Joy heal.”
Joy’s Miracle Offers Encouragement
When miracles happen, we know that God is near and watching over us, but it makes me wonder why some prayers go unanswered? “All I know is that, in my experience, miracles happen for two reasons,” replies Fr. Mazanowski. “First, God wants to reveal His love to that person, and second, He wants others to come to faith and to come to know Him as a result of the miracle. In Joy's case, I know God loves her, her parents, and our family very much, and I am grateful He has chosen to restore her to health. I also know from the many people who have contacted us that God is, in fact, bringing people back to the Church and back into relationship with Him as they receive encouragement through following the story of Joy's miraculous recovery and her parents' deep faith.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up for the Lobodas at https://www.gofundme.com/prayforjoyloboda.