Rare double-lung transplant

Published 5:06 pm Tuesday, July 30, 2019

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor 

When Hannah Goetz woke up from a coma Monday, she was gently told her life had forever changed. 

For the better. 

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Goetz had received a life-saving double lung transplant after fighting off death due to complications stemming from a bacterial infection and cystic fibrosis. 

Her response?

“I love you,” she whispered to her mother, Holly. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Mindy Poland, Holly’s best friend and family spokesperson, said Hannah, 17, had been in a medically-induced coma while her doctors and nurses fought to eliminate the bacterial infection that was keeping her from getting on the donor list and receiving the transplant.

Goetz, who graduated from Smithfield High School in June, had recently returned from a family cruise when she became ill with the flu that turned into pneumonia, said Poland. She had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at age 10, an inherited disorder disease that damages the lungs, digestive system and other organs. 

The disease results from a defective gene that makes lung secretions thick and tacky. In this case, the disease made it more difficult for her lungs to deal with the illness. It has no cure. 

Less than a week after the cruise, Goetz was in the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters with a rapidly worsening condition. Doctors finally decided to sedate Goetz and put her on an ECMO machine, a device once used for heart surgeries and bypass operations, but has since been found to keep patients alive when their lungs were failing, said Poland. 

It soon became apparent that Goetz needed a new pair of lungs, said Poland. 

Although Goetz had cystic fibrosis, she hadn’t let it keep her from an active live growing up. While in high school, two years at Windsor and her final year at Smithfield, Goetz performed in school plays, was on the soccer team, coached kids in basketball and loved playing sand soccer at the beach, said Poland. 

Goetz had even amassed enough credits to graduate a year early. She was accepted to Longwood University and was interested in a nursing career, said Poland. 

Holly, meanwhile, teaches P.E. at Windsor Elementary School, and her father, Tim, is a teacher in Suffolk. She has a younger brother, Peyton, who turns 13 on Thursday. 

Three hospitals swung into action in the fight to keep Goetz alive — Duke University, the University of Virginia and Inova Fairfax Hospital in northern Virginia. 

Fairfax was able to move Goetz to their facility, but the antibiotic resistant bacterial infection kept her off the donor list. The doctors at Fairfax decided the best option was to remove Goetz’s lungs and keep her alive on the ECMO machine as they waited for a matching donor. 

Once the lungs, thought to be the source of infection, were gone, she was cleared to get on the list. 

This was the first time Fairfax had kept someone on the ECMO machine without immediately putting in a new set of lungs, said Poland.

“It’s pretty groundbreaking,” she said. 

Through all of this Goetz was kept sedated and her family and friends kept a vigil. 

“It was a crazy few weeks. There were some times we didn’t think she would make it. There were lots of tears shed. Lots of prayers prayed,” said Poland. 

Poland has chronicled Goetz’s story on CaringBridge.org, a site devoted to providing a platform for families to update others on their progress and offer support.  

Goetz’s A-negative blood type made a donor search more difficult, but within days a donor was found. All the family knows is that it’s from a person close to Goetz’s age and with no risk factors, said Poland, adding that after a year, the family can request more information. 

The transplant surgery took about four-and-a-half hours. Goetz will need to be on anti-viral and anti-rejection medication, likely the rest of her life, said Poland. She will have a suppressed immune system and will need to avoid large crowds, as well as certain foods, such as sushi, said Poland. Goetz will likely remain at the hospital for the next three months and to save on expenses, Holly is staying at the Ronald McDonald House near the facility, said Poland. 

In addition to the updates on CaringBridge, the family also has a Go Fund Me page. A fundraiser will be held this evening at the Dairy Queen in Windsor from 6-9 p.m. A portion of the proceeds will be given to the Goetz family to help with expenses. 

Despite all the worry and waiting there is one thing Goetz can leave behind forever — cystic fibrosis. The new lungs did not have the disease and no longer will she have to be hospitalized for regular treatments.

“She will be cystic fibrosis free in her lungs,” said Poland. 


To read a detailed account of Goetz’s story and access the family’s Gofundme page, visit caringbridge.org and search for Hannah Goetz. In the purple menu bar, click on “ways to help” to access the gofundme page.

A fundraiser to help with Hannah Goetz’s medical expenses is being held at the Windsor Dairy Queen, Wednesday, July 31, 6-9 p.m. A percentage of the sales will be donated to the family.