Christine Navolt squeezes her husband’s hand, leans down to kiss his forehead.
She lifts up the couple’s 3-year-old daughter, Abigail, who leans over her father’s hospital bed at Arroyo Grande Community Hospital’s Acute Rehabilitation Center and plants a kiss on his face.
“I’m doing OK,” Navolt says, “because he’s doing better. He’s going in a good direction.”
Just a few months ago, Douglas Navolt, 51, was busy doting on his four daughters, building up his business, and working on plans to start a nonprofit organization in memory of his 20-year-old daughter, Holly, who died on Christmas Day 2011 after a long struggle with cystic fibrosis.
Doug Navolt’s contracting business, which provides air conditioning, plumbing, electrical and other work, was thriving, and the Navolts were looking forward to a prosperous year.
That all changed Oct. 29. Instead of taking his Ford pick-up truck on a work-related errand, Doug Navolt decided to ride the Harley-Davidson he’d received as a gift from his brother. He strapped on a full-face helmet and left about 2 p.m.
As he left the couple’s home in Huasna, Christine Navolt, who said she had a feeling that something was going to happen, started praying.
“As weird as it may sound, I had to release him to God and say, if it’s his time to go, I will let him go,” she recalled recently. “I asked God to protect him, to keep him safe.”
When he didn’t return by 6 p.m., Christine Navolt knew something was wrong. She started calling local hospitals. She was told to call Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center’s intensive care unit.
A doctor told her that Doug Navolt had been in a severe crash. He had been hit by a car whose driver didn’t see him before making a left turn. He was in critical condition — his neck, skull, and ribs had all been fractured. His lungs had collapsed.
Christine Navolt, 33, spent the next week at the hospital, waiting to see if her husband of more than eight years would wake up. Doctors couldn’t tell Christine how fully he’d recover.
“At the same time,” she said, “we’ve seen so many miracles.”
Doug Navolt’s daughter, Holly, lived with cystic fibrosis since she was an infant. The condition causes thick mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive track. In May 2010, she was rushed to receive a double-lung transplant, from which she made a remarkable recovery.
Eventually, though, her body stopped responding to antibiotics to prevent tissue rejection, and she went into respiratory failure.
The Navolts hope to start a nonprofit, Holly’s Helping Hands, to help families in extreme medical situations with fundraising efforts. Those plans are currently on hold.
Family and friends came together to raise money and support for Holly; now, they are coming together for Doug.
Christine Navolt posts regular updates on her Facebook page. Whenever a difficulty arises, she asks for prayer support.
“I would say we need to pray for this specifically, and then we’d see a change,” she said. “I’ve seen people’s faith increase watching their prayers be answered.”
Doug Navolt’s condition improved enough that he was moved on Dec. 6 from Sierra Vista to the rehab center in Arroyo Grande.
He’s been smiling, recognizing friends, and squeezing his wife’s hand. Therapists have him standing, speaking and writing, and his balance is improving. He wasn’t able to use his left arm at first, but now some movement is coming back.
However, doctors still need to run another MRI to determine whether fractures in his neck and spine have healed. And Christine Navolt repeatedly asks friends and family to pray for healing for his brain, which was also injured in the crash.
“This is a huge opportunity to watch what God can do in a bad circumstance,” Christine Navolt said. “I’m expecting it to go well — whatever it’s going to be like, it’s going to go well.”
How you can help
The Navolts currently don’t have health insurance, but most of Doug Navolt’s hospital bills are expected to be covered by Medi-Cal. However, Doug Navolt is the sole provider for the family of six, and Christine Navolt and her daughters are living off proceeds from community fundraisers. One fundraising effort at www.giveforward.com/dougnavoltrecoveryfund ends Dec. 31.
Tax-deductible donations can also be made to the family at Shouts of Grace Church, 1115 E. Grand Ave., Arroyo Grande CA 93420.
Cynthia Lambert and Gayle Cuddy write the South County Beat column on alternating Wednesdays. Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.