Student fundraiser undeterred by setback


A year ago, Riverdale Country School student Luis Perez hoped to raise enough money to buy his 25-year-old cousin David Navarro a van through the charity he started, The David Project.

Mr. Navarro has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic disease characterized by muscle deterioration, and used a wheelchair to get around. But most subway stops lack convenient wheelchair accessibility, so his range was very limited. Luis hoped the van would help.

But on Jan. 5, Luis, his cousin and their family were watching television when Mr. Navarro began to have difficulty breathing. By the time an ambulance reached his family’s apartment in Washington Heights, David was unconscious. His heart stopped three times, but each time paramedics brought him back to life.

“It really just shattered everything,” said Luis, who used to spend time with David every day after school, playing video games, watching television, and talking.

For over a month, Mr. Navarro was comatose, but nine weeks after his medical emergency, he has opened his eyes and regained some basic movement, although the loss of oxygen during the heart attack destroyed cells in his brain. Mr. Navarro has started moving his legs, head, fingers and arms, and has become more attentive to movement in the room. He is on constant television watch to stimulate brain cells, his family hopes these are signs that Mr. Navarro could make a comeback.

“What has happened now is a big miracle,” said Mr. Navarro’s father, who has the same name as his son. A maintenance worker, the elder Mr. Navarro quit his job after the younger Mr. Navarro’s medical emergency so he could spend his time in the hospital caring for his son. He sleeps on a foldable bed in the hospital.

“His father has dedicated his whole life to his son,” said the younger Mr. Navarro’s other cousin Elayne Blancas, who was at a family party in New Jersey when she heard the news about her relation. She and her family rushed to Millstein Hospital, where Mr. Navarro was transported.

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