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Lancaster transplant patient's battle isn't over yet in Pittsburgh

| Thursday, June 20, 2013, 12:11 a.m.
Lancaster Newspapers
Lancaster Newspapers Raymond New Holy of Lancaster underwent a double lung transplant Tuesday at UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland.

One of Raymond New Holy's toughest battles may be trying to keep his family with him in Pittsburgh as he recuperates from a double lung transplant, friends and family members said.

A Native American who traces his lineage to Sitting Bull, New Holy received donated lungs at UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland on Tuesday and must remain within 20 miles of the hospital for at least three months for follow-up work.

“The surgery went good. … He's doing good,” said Andy Runion of West Willow, Lancaster County, a friend. “The battle's been tough the whole way. … He's got the lungs; now he has to recuperate.”

Although insurance will cover most of the cost of the operation, thousands of dollars more will be needed to let New Holy, 49, of Lampeter, Lancaster County, and his family stay near the hospital. His daughters, Emily and Janice, 3-year-old twins, are autistic.

A fundraising powwow at Susquehanna State Park in Drumore Township last weekend raised about $5,500, said Runion, who pledged to continue those efforts.

“We're about $10,000 short,” Runion said.

New Holy, an elder among Lakota, was stricken two years ago with rheumatoid arthritis, which affected his lungs. Without the transplant, his doctors said, he couldn't have survived.

Before the operation, even little chores left him gasping for breath. He required 8 liters of oxygen per minute and pushed oxygen tanks with him everywhere he went, according to a June 12 story in the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal.

The Circle Legacy Center, a nonprofit representing Native American interests to businesses, educational institutions and other organizations, is collecting money through PayPal at its website, circlelegacycenter.org.

New Holy's fiancee, Heather Abramo, is staying in hotels, which is eating into their bank account. Their daughters will join her soon.

“They are special-needs kids,” said Abramo, who is working on completing her college degree.

The elder title isn't handed out to just anyone among Lakota, Runion said.

“In the Lakota family, you earn that respect. You earn that honor,” he said. “Through his selflessness and trying to be a better person, he achieved that. He's touched a lot of people in his life.”

New Holy, a laborer and former truck driver, was born on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and has lived near Strasburg for about 30 years, according to the Intelligencer Journal.

He underwent seven sacred ceremonies handed down to the Sioux by Wohpe, the White Buffalo Calf Woman.

He was an extra in “Son of the Morning Star,” a 1991 television movie about the defeat of Lt. Col. George A. Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and had a speaking role in the 1990 Kevin Costner film “Dances With Wolves,” which was filmed on location in South Dakota.

Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or csmith@tribweb.com.

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