Man With COVID Needs Double Lung And Heart Transplant To Survive


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.

Brian Karnes in intensive care. (Karnes family)

Brian Karnes and his 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 currently on a ventilator and almost died while battling the virus, were not vaccinated when they contracted it.

Now doctors say his only option for survival is multiple organ transplants, and so far they have been unlucky.

It has 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 intensive care unit.

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

Brian Karnes had to undergo a treatment called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). During this treatment, blood is taken from the body, oxygenated and reintroduced, essentially bypassing the lungs so that it can breathe. Rebekah Karnes feared the worst.

“There are several times that we certainly could have lost him in this process,” she said. “It is sometimes terrifying.”

However, she said her husband decided to fight. Almost four months to the day since his first admission to hospital, he spoke to KFOR through a valve.

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Brian and his wife Rebekah before falling seriously ill from COVID-19. (Karnes family)

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

He had a waking moment in the hospital where he came to consciousness, his wife said. Now he’s making progress through physical therapy and working on getting up.

“It has been a real challenge,” she said.

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

“It was very emotional for all of us,” she said.

Brian Karnes runs a clinic in Norman, Oklahoma, where his wife works. She said neither of them felt the need to be vaccinated as they mainly did televisions, as well as other precautionary measures like wearing masks and distancing.

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

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

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

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

“It’s definitely something that has been a topic of discussion for us,” she said.

Now the whole family hopes for a miracle.

“We are in a difficult situation,” said Rebekah Karnes.

They are contacting other centers about the transplant and waiting for answers. She says they have had end-of-life talks in case the worst happens.

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