Luci's Little Heart: "[I] was thinking my daughter was going to die."

HILLSVILLE, Va. (WDBJ7) One year ago WDBJ7 introduced you to a cute little redhead in Hillsville who was born with a congenital heart defect and was in need of major surgery

In October 2018, the Stanleys were raising money to go to California for Luci's heart surgery and for a few months after we met them, things were quiet, until one day in February.

"She started throwing up and just because she has a heart defect we were told to automatically go to a hospital just to make sure it wasn't anything super important," Luci's mother, Jacklyn Stanley said.

Turns out it wasn't just a virus, but instead Luci was diagnosed with a diaphragmatic hernia, which caused her intestines to move up into her chest cavity.

"It's a condition that can kill them," Stanley said, adding that the next month and a half was a blur.

"That was February 28. She ended up having surgery March 26. And we left for California April 17."

That California surgery happened May 1. Doctors worked 16 hours to repair her heart as best they could.

"She looked so good," Stanley said. "Her chest was still opened. They had a film over it, but you could see her heart beating. Then they explained to us that it was very normal for the first 24 hours to be up and down, up and down, and they told us to go home."

Not even four hours later, they were rushing Luci from the Ronald McDonald House back to the hospital.

"Everything had changed," Stanley said. "She was four times her size. She was so swollen that her eyes were leaking."

After days of ups and downs, she was finally back to her normal size and doctors were able to close her chest, but they weren't heading out just yet.

"We learned very quickly that the hospital jink is real," Stanley said. "With Luci it was like half a step forward and maybe 25 steps back."

On day 10, that step backwards was a stroke.

"And I'll cry at this point," Stanley said choking up. "Cause it was her hardest day, out of all of it.... Was thinking that my daughter was going to die."

The Stanleys said it was the most scared they had ever felt throughout the whole journey. Aside from death, their biggest fear had always been a brain injury and that's exactly what was happening right before their eyes.

After the stroke code was called, doctors rushed into little Luci's hospital room.

"I've never seen so many people fit into a room so quickly," Stanley said.

Doctors and nurses performed lifesaving measures in what can only be described as organized chaos.

All the while, Luci was just laying there, oblivious to it all.

"And I'm thankful she couldn't really know what was going on," her mother said, still fighting back the tears.

All she and her husband, Matthew, could do was watch and pray.

"I cried. I got it out," Jacklyn Stanley said. "We have realized the power of prayer with her from the beginning."

While Luci was getting her MRI, the family took to social media.

"Just saying, 'Please pray for Luci now,' I think it had like over 600 comments and had already reached 19,000 people."

And through the power of prayer and the skills of the doctors, Luci made it through her darkest day.

"She's just a trooper. She's so strong," Stanley said proudly.

However, the repercussions from her stroke still linger.

"She has a little bit of weakness in her right side," Stanley explained. "And we're in speech because with the stroke she became right vocal cord paralyzed."

She's also developed PTSD after a life spent in hospitals.

"She screams when doctors walk in towards her," she said. "The stethoscope is not her friend."

But despite the fear, her parents say that Luci still loves life.

"And you would think that with all the negative that has been done towards her that she would be more in a depression mode, but she is so strong. Yeah," Stanley smiled at her grinning daughter, "Yes, you are."

And no matter what happens when the Stanleys go back to California in December for another surgery, they say they're grateful for the time they've been given.

"I got to walk out of the hospital with my baby and people walk out every day without their child," Stanley said. "And that is my biggest fear. But I fully believe in God's full healing of Luci and I know that she won't be fully healed until she gets to heaven and we understand that if that's what God says is going to happen, we accept it. I just hope it's many, many years from now."

Luci's next heart surgery has more risks than her one in May. Because since she's already had a stroke, she is more susceptible to having another one.

Friends, family and the Hillsville/Galax community have set up an online fundraiser to help pay for the living costs of the Stanley's trip to California in December. The Stanley's say they could be gone from four to six weeks, depending on how quickly Luci recovers from surgery. You can follow Luci's journey on her Facebook page, Luci's Little Heart.

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