OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An Oklahoma man is fighting for his life in the intensive care unit at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center Friday after four months of battling COVID-19 and its aftereffects. He needs a double lung and heart transplant to survive if taken off a ventilator.
Brian Karnes, his wife Rebekah, a nurse practitioner and their five daughters contracted COVID-19 in March. Rebekah said she and her husband were not vaccinated when they contracted it. Karnes said her husband is on a ventilator right now and has even neared the fringe of death during his fight with the virus. Now, his only option to survive is the transplant and, so far, they haven’t had any luck.
“I just want a chance,” Brian Karnes said softly in his hospital bed.
“He just wants a chance,” his wife Rebekah said sitting next to him.
It’s been more than a long road for the 47-year-old father of five. Within a week of he and his family contracting the virus, he was the one in the ICU.
“His lungs were failing, and oxygenation just wasn’t holding up,” Rebekah said.
He had to go on a treatment called ECMO. During this treatment, the blood is taken from the body, oxygenated, and put back in, essentially bypassing the lungs so Brian could breathe. Rebekah said she was fearing the worst.
“There’s several times that we definitely could have lost him during this process,” Rebekah said. “It’s been downright terrifying at times.”
However, Brian 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.
“I Don’t want to give up,” Brian said softly.
According to Rebekah, Brian had a wake-up moment in the hospital where he came back to consciousness. Now he’s progressing through physical therapy and working on standing up.
“It’s been a real challenge,” Rebekah said.
But the fight is far from over. The 47-year-old still needs the double lung and heart transplant. Rebekah said COVID-19 did a number on his lungs causing them to be unable to expand. It also caused right sided heart failure.
“It’s been really emotional for all of us,” she said.
Brian runs a clinic in Norman, which is where Rebekah works. She said neither of them felt the need to get vaccinated because they were doing mostly televisits, along with other precautionary measures like wearing masks and distancing.
“We still don’t know where any of it came from,” Rebekah said. “We don’t know how he got sick.”
Rebekah 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 said.
According to Rebekah, they were climbing Mt. Scott and doing outdoor activities before they got sick. 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.