CHESTER — The young mother of seven children unexpectedly collapsed earlier this month after suffering an arrhythmia that has left her in a coma.

Ream Nelson and her husband, Dakota, were working in their garage when Ream passed out and had no pulse. Dakota immediately began chest compressions. EMTs arrived shortly after, as did a neighbor who used a defibrillator to help restart Ream’s heart.

“They did the defibrillator twice before getting a pulse. Ream’s body and her brain were left without oxygen for 20 minutes. There was extensive brain damage due to a loss of oxygen,” said Ream’s sister, Summer Alameel. “Doctors have told us they’ve seen similar cases where a young patient with a lot to live for was able to recover a quality of life.”

Married for 17 years, Ream and Dakota Nelson, of Chester, which is north of Rexburg along U.S. Highway 20, have seven children ranging in age from 1 to 17. Family members, like Alameel, are helping with the children while at the same time hoping for Ream Nelson’s fast recovery.

To help the Nelson family defray costs, a series of fundraisers have been set up. To begin with, a gofundme account called “Rally For Ream Nelson” was recently created, and, as of Thursday afternoon, nearly $12,000 of the $250,000 goal has been reached. Fundraiser organizers have also set up an account under Ream Nelson’s name at the Bank of Idaho.

In the meantime, the Nelsons’ family friend, Heather Cordingley, owner of Rapid River Rentals, has set up a fundraiser starting at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the business at 265 S. Highway 20.

“I just thought that whatever we make on Saturday, we would give to Ream’s family,” she said.

Shortly after the fundraiser was announced, others decided to help out. Several athletic teams plan to put on a barbecue to start at 11 a.m. Saturday.

They plan to offer a barbecue, chips, a drink and a dessert for $5. Several businesses are providing the food for the barbecue. Also that day, the girl’s volleyball team that Ream coaches will host a car wash for $8 a car.

“People who don’t want to go float the river, but who want to donate can come and eat and have their car washed from 11 p.m. to 5 p.m.,” Cordingley said.

Following the fundraiser, Cordingley plans to set up donation boxes at her business and elsewhere.

Ream proved the picture of health just prior to collapsing, Cordingley said.

“She looked perfectly happy,” she said. “It makes you think of life differently. You just never know. She was healthy, with seven kids and is a great mother. She coached the girls’ volleyball team. She is just a really nice kind person.”

Alameel says that their family has no history of heart attacks, and that Ream suffering one has come as a complete shock to the family.

“Ream had no serious health problems. This came completely out of the blue,” she said. “Thirty seconds before this happened, Ream and Dakota were chasing each other around the garage. They were laughing and having fun. It’s stunning how quickly things can go from being great to being unthinkable.”

Dakota Nelson had left the garage for about five minutes to return a tool, and, when he returned, his wife was on the ground, turning blue and not breathing. The couple’s pre-school-aged son was standing over his mother and not understanding why she wouldn’t talk to him.

“It is hard to accurately describe in words what it is like to have found my beautiful wife, whom I have fallen in love with and grown closer to in our 17 years of marriage on the floor, eyes open and unresponsive with our three-year-old standing over her. Having our children witness this is unthinkable,” Dakota said.

Alameel said that doctors believe that it was an arrhythmia in Ream heart that caused her organs to pool with blood.

The Mayo Clinic reports that heart arrhythmias happen when the electrical impulses that coordinate heartbeats don’t work properly. This, in turn, causes the heart to beat too fast, too slow or irregularly. The condition can be mild to life threatening, the clinic said.

In the meantime, Alameel plans to help tend to her sister’s children while doctors treat Ream.

“Those poor babies,” Alameel said. “They are my immediate concern. I love Ream more than anything, and I know she would want her babies taken care of. We’re hoping she’ll be home soon.”