INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A local NICU nurse is finally well enough to tell her story, after surviving a brutal battle with COVID-19 and a double lung transplant.
News 8 first shared Kari Wegg’s journey back in September, when her lungs were failing.
While this has been an incredibly long road to recovery for Kari, she is getting stronger and finally able to speak again. Kari is now using her voice to ensure that people take this virus seriously.
“They were at the point of removing care from me. Allowing me to die.”
Like so many people who have fallen victim to COVID-19, 48-year-old Kari Wegg was once on death’s door.
“My lungs were failing,” said Wegg.
However, this mother, a 25-year veteran NICU nurse is a warrior in the hospital and a warrior in Viking reenactments. She wasn’t ready to give up.
When asked if she considers herself a warrior, Kari said “Haha… That is what everybody else perceives in me. But, for me, I am just fighting for my life.”
It’s a fight she and her husband, Rodney, know well. They’re both healthcare workers in central Indiana. Rodney is a respiratory therapist at IU Health and Kari is a NICU nurse caring for babies at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis. The couple spent the spring caring for coronavirus patients. By the summer, their entire family was sick.
“My whole family ended up getting COVID. But none of them got as sick as me. And it just, it’s devastating,” said Kari.
Kari hasn’t seen her two boys, Gavin and Gunner, in person, since July.
“My husband had to tell them that I might die,” said Kari as she held back tears. “It is really, really, really hard, because my whole life revolves around my kids.”
Through the pain, the family kept hope. They started this Facebook page to give updates on Kari’s condition and prayed for help. Finally, in September, Kari was transferred to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago for a double-lung transplant. Northwestern Medicine was the first to do a COVID-19 double lung transplant in the United States and Kari was only the sixth survivor to get the surgery.
Now with every breath, she knows how fortunate she is.
“I just feel really lucky, because even a coworker of mine, just lost her battle with COVID this week. She was about the same age as me, had kids and she died… and here I am, I am lucky enough to have gotten some new lungs and I am alive,” said Kari.
This second chance has given Kari new meaning in the simple moments in life. Kari is now re-learning to walk. She just moved into the Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital in Chicago over the weekend. She hopes to go home to Indiana the second week of December and finally see her kids.
In the meantime, Kari has regained her voice and is breathing new life into our healthcare heroes’ fight.
“We are the ones taking care of everybody else with COVID and we are just as vulnerable as anybody else,” said Kari. “A virus is a virus and it gets around. So wash your hands, wear a mask, stay home if you can… people need to protect themselves. They need to protect others and that is what I am hoping my story will do, is bring home the reality of this.”
Kari’s family has endured the loss of income and large medical bills. A medical GoFundMe page is raising money for the family.