This story was originally published by KBJR6 in Duluth, MN.

By Kendall Jarobe

DULUTH, MN. (KBJR) – One Duluth family endured the unimaginable and overcame it all because of the help of total strangers.

Rich and Jena Mertz have two daughters.

The tight-knit family lived a pretty normal life until 2019 when Lucie, their youngest daughter, started feeling sick.

“She had a low-grade fever and was not herself for about a week, and we had taken her in locally and they said ‘Oh, I’m sure it’s viral. Just keep an eye on her,” Jena said.

Lucie’s fever got worse.

They went back for a check-up a week later, and doctors confirmed a parent’s worst nightmare.

“She had a scan and that’s where they found a mass in her abdomen,” Jena said.

At the age of three, Lucie was diagnosed with high-risk neuroblastoma.

It is a rare, deadly cancer.

Lucie spent five weeks intubated in the ICU and slept through her fourth birthday.

While the pandemic forced many to stay home, cancer kept the Mertz family at the hospital.

“We were giving each other hugs in the parking lot and taking different shifts at the hospital,” Rich said. “It was crazy. I’m glad it was two years ago almost now because it was not a fun situation.”

Lucie had a total of 10 surgeries in 18 months.

On top of that, she had chemotherapy, radiation, and a bone marrow transfusion.

Some treatments did not go well.

“She did have a complication with her bone marrow transfusion part of her treatment and ended up in the ICU and had around-the-clock platelet transfusions and also some red cells, too,” Jena said.

Lucie had a total of 182 blood transfusions.

Jena said blood donors saved her daughter’s life.

“If they only knew the impact,” she said. “Individually if they could track them back I would go in and thank every single one of them and give them a big hug because she wouldn’t be here without it.”

After five grueling months in the hospital, Lucie was finally able to go home.

Now, the Mertz family is thanking those who donated and encouraging others to do the same.

“You are literally saving lives with an hour and maybe one little poke,” Jena said. “It doesn’t take much.”

This family now has more time to laugh, play, and be together all thanks to the strangers who gave a little to save a life.

Lucie is now doing well and going to Kindergarten; something her parents say is more than they could have ever hoped for.

Lucie will have a big check-up in February which is one-year post treatment.

Doctors say if they get through that with flying colors, the family can breathe a little bit easier.

Blood banks were terribly low in supply when Lucie needed them, and they still have not recovered.

That is why KBJR 6 is teaming up with Memorial Blood Centers to host another blood drive.

The drive is Monday, November 22, at the Pier B Ballroom in Duluth from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

There are also free gifts for donors.

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