MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When you think of heart disease, you likely don’t think of 7-year-old girls. But Lucia Halstrom lives with it every day. She’s lucky to even be alive.

The sickness has turned her family into big supporters of the Ronald McDonald House. The foundation offers close-by housing to families whose children are in the hospital.

We are highlighting their work in this week’s Trees of Hope Campaign.

Here’s a little more on Lucia’s connection:

Until 2014, life seemed normal for the Maple Grove 7-year-old, because up to that point, it had been.

Then, here mom Amy said, “We found ourselves in an unexpected traumatic situation.”

Lucia was off to a friend’s to play when everything got serious. Her friend found her face down in bedrock.

Amy said she didn’t understand.

“Knew that she was discolored — discolored in the lips, the face, gray-blue — because at that point it had easily been 10 minutes without oxygen and knew that we were in a traumatic situation,” she said.

The 7-year-old had gone into cardiac arrest because of an undetected heart condition. She went around 11 minutes without oxygen.

“They told us that she had significant brain damage and probably would never eat on her own, breathe on her own or have the ability to communicate with us so the next day we took her off ventilators,” Amy said.

The moments were precious and terrifying.

“Leaving the hospital was not an option for my husband or myself or my son,” Amy said.

A social worker told Amy about the Ronald McDonald House that is a part of the Children’s Hospital and Clinics of Minneapolis. The house is funded in part by a very familiar company, McDonald’s. They offer free or nearly-free housing on-site or nearby in this freestanding house near the University of Minnesota campus. Volunteers also make fresh home-cooked meals.

“It’s not a sterile environment, everything else about the hospital is sterile,” Amy said. “It offers the comforts of a home, so you escape the hospital life without really leaving the hospital.”

Nurses would call Amy whenever things would change. She was a quick elevator ride away. One call would change everything.

“She woke up and she started talking,” Amy said.

Lucia made a stunning recovery. Two years later, she has a defibrillator implanted in her chest. She had to give up gymnastics, but she’s taken on golf.

It’s a miracle, and she thinks a one-bedroom suite had something to do with.

“She definitely knew that we were there and we were encouraging her to win the battle and win the fight. And just being that close to her I think was an essential part of her recovery,” Amy said.

“I want people to know that it’s a safe place and that your family’s right there,” Lucia said.

Sixteen days of temporary housing that will stick with this family forever.

“They say it’s the house that love built and without a doubt that is absolutely what it is,” Amy said.

McDonald’s funds part of the money for families like the Halstrom’s to stay, but they rely heavily on donations. The average cost to keep a family overnight is $100.

If you’d like to help a family find comfort in their darkest days, here is how you can donate.

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