Relief flight: Los Osos girl rushes to get new lungs

Eighteen-year-old Holly Navolt of Los Osos lay Thursday at Stanford Medical Center, her ribs held together by wire and her chest pierced by three tubes. And she breathed more easily than she had in years.

During a life-saving double lung transplant on Wednesday, doctors needed to scrape out lungs deteriorated by cystic fibrosis to make room for “some of the healthiest lungs they had seen in years,” according to Holly’s father, Doug Navolt. The donor was a man from Washington.

Holly has suffered from cystic fibrosis since she was an infant. The condition causes thick mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive track.

Before the transplant, a common cold could lead to life-threatening lung infections, which made Holly feel as if she were “drowning,” she once told her cousin Amber Piñon. She was often hospitalized, and a recent test showed her lungs functioning at only 38 percent, Piñon said.

However, she added, Holly remained upbeat through it all.

“If you met her, you would never have known she was sick,” Piñon said.

At 6:40 p.m. Tuesday, after just one week on the National Lung Transplant Registry, doctors alerted the family to a possible organ match. Pilot and family friend Chris Lundberg of Arroyo Grande flew Holly and her father to the Bay Area, and they arrived at the hospital just two hours after getting word of the match.

Patients on lung transplant lists generally have one to two years to live, doctors told the family.

When the doctors opened Holly’s chest, they encountered one of the most severe examples of cystic fibrosis they had seen, they told Doug Navolt after the surgery.

“Her lungs were so deteriorated, they were melted into her chest cavity,” he said.

However, doctors say her current rate of recovery is remarkable. Whereas most people remain in intensive care for one to two weeks after a surgery of this nature, her father said Holly was on track to be transferred after only three days.

After another two weeks of hospital care, she’ll be moved to a recovery facility at Stanford.

Doug Navolt, a refrigerator and air conditioning service technician and the sole provider for a family of six, must take three months off work so that he and Holly’s stepmother can take turns at her bedside.

Doctors recommend that loved ones stay with recovering transplant patients to encourage healing.

Doctors tell the family that an average survivor of a double lung transplant will have his or her life extended five to 10 years, although medical advances are increasing that number.

On a website created before the transplant, Holly said she was looking forward to visiting family in Hawaii and being strong enough to work.

She is two healthy lungs closer to those goals.

Doug Navolt said, “The doctors told me there’s someone other than them looking out for her…. God is the one we are thanking in all of this.”

Hike for Holly

Through fundraisers, Holly Navolt’s family is hoping to raise $100,000 to ease the financial burden of her three-month recovery in Northern California. A 5K walk/run through the Huasna countryside will take place Saturday, May 22, at Tar Springs Ranch, 7255 Huasna Road, Arroyo Grande. Registration is at 8 a.m. and walk at 9 a.m.

Visit http://cotaforhollyn.com for details.