'I Just Want a Chance': Father of 5 Needs Lungs, Heart Transplants to Survive After COVID

A father of five in Oklahoma is in need of double-lung and heart transplants after fighting for his life in the ICU for nearly four months after contracting COVID-19.

According to KFOR, 47-year-old Brian Karnes, as well as his wife, Rebekah, and their five daughters, all tested positive for the virus in March. Within a week of getting sick, Brian was in the intensive care unit at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City.

"His lungs were failing, and oxygenation just wasn't holding up," Rebekah, a nurse practitioner, said.

COVID-19 hindered Brian's lungs from expanding and caused right-sided heart failure. He has been on a ventilator for the majority of the time, and in order to survive without the ventilator, he needs double lung and heart transplants.

"I just want a chance," Brian said to KFOR from his hospital bed.

According to Rebekah, he had been on a treatment called ECMO, in which blood is taken from a person's body, oxygenated, and put back in. The goal is to bypass the lungs and help patients breathe, but Rebekah said there were many times when 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."

Neither Brian nor Rebekah were vaccinated, despite both of their work in health care. Rebekah shared that they didn't feel they needed to get vaccinated as they were mostly doing televisits and following other guidelines like wearing masks and social distancing.

Now, Rebekah said that getting the vaccine is "definitely something that has been a talking point for us."

"We still don't know where any of it came from," she said. "We don't know how he got sick."

With the help of a valve, Brian told KFOR, "I don't want to give up." He is in physical therapy and working toward standing up, but the transplants should make a big difference.

"He just wants a chance," Rebekah said.

Newsweek reached out to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, who said that Oklahoma state vaccination rates administered in the week of July 25 to July 31 were up 26 percent from the week before, and daily averages continue to increase.

Other families throughout the United States are being affected by COVID-19 in a similar way, having a family member or multiple in the hospital after contracting the virus.

A couple in Texas, who were largely against the vaccine, ended up being admitted to the ICU after getting sick and now are desperate for their four children to get vaccinated.

"My 42 yo cousin didn't believe in the vaccine," the woman's cousin wrote in a recent Facebook post. "Now she and her husband are in the ICU on vents fighting for their lives with this delta variant while their 4 children are at home. One of the last things she said before being intubated was to make sure her kids get vaccinated."

Update 5:22 p.m. 8/3/2021: This story has been updated to include a statement from the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

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A father of five is in the ICU waiting for double lung and heart transplants after contracting COVID-19 four months ago. An indigenous woman is inoculated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine against COVID-19 at a vaccination center in La Paz, on August 2. AIZAR RALDES/AFP via Getty Images