Oklahoma man in ICU with COVID for 4 months needs double lung and heart transplant to survive

National News

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An Oklahoma man is fighting for his life in intensive care after four months of battling COVID-19 and its symptoms. He needs a double lung and heart transplant to survive without a ventilator.

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Brian Karnes in intensive care. (Karnes family)

Brian Karnes and wife Rebekah, who run a family medicine clinic, along with their five daughters, contracted COVID-19 in March.

Rebekah Karnes said she and her husband, who is on a ventilator right now and has come close to dying during his fight with the virus, were not vaccinated when they contracted it.

Now, doctors say his only option to survive is with the multi-organ transplant and, so far, they haven’t had any luck.

It’s been a long road for the 47-year-old father of five. A week after the family contracted COVID-19, he was the one in the ICU.

“His lungs were failing, and oxygenation just wasn’t holding up,” Rebekah Karnes said.

Brian Karnes had to go on a treatment called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). During this treatment, the blood is taken from the body, oxygenated, and put back in, essentially bypassing the lungs so he can breathe. Rebekah Karnes feared the worst.

“There’s several times that we definitely could have lost him during this process,” she said. “It’s been downright terrifying at times.”

However, she said her husband decided to fight. Nearly four months to the day since he was first admitted to the hospital, he spoke to KFOR with the help of a valve.

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Brian and his wife Rebekah prior to becoming critically ill from COVID-19. (Karnes family)

“I don’t want to give up,” Brian Karnes said softly.

He had a wake-up moment in the hospital where he came back to consciousness, his wife said. Now he’s progressing through physical therapy and working on standing up.

“It’s been a real challenge,” she said.

But the fight is far from over. The 47-year-old still needs the double lung and heart transplant. Rebekah Karnes said COVID-19 wreaked havoc on his lungs, which no longer inflate on their own. It also caused right-sided heart failure.

“It’s been really emotional for all of us,” she said.

Brian Karnes runs a clinic in Norman, Oklahoma, which is where his wife works. She said neither of them felt the need to get vaccinated because they were doing mostly tele-visits, along with other precautionary measures like wearing masks and distancing.

According to Rebekah Karnes, they were climbing Mt. Scott and doing outdoor activities before they got sick.

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Brian conscious, but still in intensive care. (Karnes family)

“We still don’t know where any of it came from,” she said. “We don’t know how he got sick.”

She added that the vaccine has now become something they are discussing.

“That’s definitely something that has been a talking point for us,” she said.

Now, the entire family is hoping for a miracle.

“We’re in a hard spot,” Rebekah Karnes said.

They are reaching back out to some more centers about the transplant and are awaiting responses. She says they have had end of life discussions in case the worst does come.

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