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Published February 09, 2010, 12:00 AM

Moorhead woman receives double lung transplant

Holly Bergo was running out of time. The Moorhead nurse waited for new lungs for more than a year as an incurable disease relentlessly claimed her own pair and landed her at the top of the Mayo Clinic’s transplant list. Her rare blood type and petite frame stretched out the wait.

Holly Bergo was running out of time.

The Moorhead nurse waited for new lungs for more than a year as an incurable disease relentlessly claimed her own pair and landed her at the top of the Mayo Clinic’s transplant list. Her rare blood type and petite frame stretched out the wait.

Last weekend, just as Bergo seemed poised to lose a spirited battle, doctors found a match.

Bergo’s family is thankful for this “miracle in the nick of time” as they brace for the suspenseful days and weeks ahead.

“We know it will be a long road to recovery but are looking forward to every moment,” Bergo’s sister, Julie, wrote on her CaringBridge site. “This is truly a miracle.”

On Wednesday, Bergo was rushed to Fargo’s Innovis Health with a collapsed lung.

Her health had deteriorated rapidly since she was flown to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., last July, only to find the donor lungs lined up for her weren’t healthy enough to transplant. Lymphangioleiomyomatosis, a progressive disease that strikes mostly women in their prime, had robbed her of all but 12 percent of lung function. She was completely dependent on an oxygen tank and barely left her home.

But Bergo, whom The Forum profiled last summer, stayed upbeat. Friend Michelle Eldredge received a voice mail message from Bergo last week: “Her voice was really quiet. She was winded. But her spirit was still there.”

At Innovis, doctors stabilized Bergo and had her airlifted to Mayo. Her parents and sister drove there overnight.

“She was at the point where she wasn’t going to make it beyond another day or two,” said Bergo’s dad, Bruce.

The Mayo team expanded the donor search area. A matching set was found by Saturday.

The eight-hour wait during the surgery was both exhilarating and harrowing, Bruce said.

“You’re happy it’s happening because it will give her life,” he said. “But at the same time – boy! You pace back and forth. And you pray.”

A nurse gave Bergo’s family occasional updates: the first incision, the right lung in, then the left one.

Doctors have told the Bergos their daughter is doing well considering how sick she was. She’s still sedated and breathing through a ventilator.

A series of small seizures after the surgery are keeping the family on edge. But they hope those are minor setbacks on her way to reassembling her life.

“She’s a tough cookie,” Julie says. “If anybody can get through this, it is her.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Mila Koumpilova at (701) 241-5529

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