Hope for Heaven: Peoria woman beats odds after devastating crash

Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 7:06 PM CST
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - “A low chance of survival.” That’s what doctors said about a Peoria woman earlier this month after a crash that could have taken her life. Now, her family is coping with the aftermath, and what happens next.

According to Illinois State Police, a semi truck took an unexpected turn on Route 17 January 9 heading towards Kankakee. Behind it was 20-year-old Heaven Loza’s car. As the truck took an unexpected turn, Heaven slammed into the back of the trailer. Accounts from the family state that when first responders arrived, she was pried from the wreckage and airlifted to the nearest hospital. Medical professionals say her injuries were critical across the board: shattered bones, a removed spleen, and brain damage that sent her into a coma.

Heaven’s mother, Destiny Wissel, talks to her every day on the phone. But by the afternoon, she found it unusual that she still hadn’t heard anything from her. Destiny finally received a phone call later in the day, but it wasn’t from her daughter. After hearing the news from police, Wissel rushed to Chicago, a drive she’s made every day since from her home in Marseilles. She recalls vividly the first time seeing her daughter in the hospital bed.

“It was like, it wasn’t true. It was like, ‘When am I going to wake up from this bad dream?’” she recounts.

Doctors told Heaven’s family prior to surgery that her chances for survival were slim. Even after surviving the treatment, however, they noted the extent of the brain damage would remain unknown until she wakes up.

While Heaven lays comatose in a hospital room at Loyola University Medical Center, her partner Salvador is taking the reigns of family duties back in Peoria. He’s a former mechanic, no longer employed so that he could look over their two children in Heaven’s absence: 4-year-old Julian and two-year-old Hazel.

It’s difficult, he says, to change to the role of full-time parent, especially after leaving his job. Combined with the weight of uncertainty regarding Heaven, he says he struggles to remain strong for his children, praying every day for the best outcome possible.

”I just hope that she’s doing okay every day, that we’re not going to get the news that she’s not functioning, that her brain’s working correctly,” he says.

The absence is taking its toll on the family in more ways than one. Some nights, Salvador says, Hazel and Julian wake up from nightmares crying out for their mother, who they haven’t seen in weeks. Due to hospital policies, the children are unable to visit Heaven while she is in their care.

But despite everything mounting against him, Salvador isn’t giving up hope.

“I could see ourselves getting old, becoming married at some time in the future.”

Doctors plan to move Heaven to a different facility in the coming days to take her off the respirator. After that, she’ll go to a long-term rehabilitation hospital to re-learn to walk, talk, eat, and regain her ability to live.

It’s a long road ahead for Heaven. But after beating all the odds she’s faced up to this point, her family says they’re ready for anything.

“I don’t care how she comes home, but she’s coming home with me. I’ll take care of her for the rest of my life,” says Destiny.

Illinois State Police say according to preliminary reports, the semi-truck turned left in front of Heaven when she ran into it from behind. It’s unclear who - if anyone - was at fault in the accident. They were unable to provide further info about the crash.

Heaven’s insurance won’t cover her hospital expenses, but her mother has set up a GoFundMe to help the family while she recovers. You can visit the page by clicking here.