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Indy NICU nurse awaits bilateral lung transplant in fight with COVID-19

UPDATE: The Indianapolis nurse who works in a neonatal intensive care unit and is in need of a new pair of lungs is a step closer to getting a transplant. Kari Wegg’s husband said Saturday that she is now awake, following commands and passing tests with flying colors. She is in a Chicago hospital, where she is on the transplant list.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An Indianapolis NICU nurse who has long cared for the most vulnerable patients now needs her own life-saving care. A battle with COVID-19 has left 47-year old Kari Wegg’s lungs badly damaged. Her family said a bilateral lung transplant is the birthday gift they are praying for.

The mom of two boys will turn 48-years old on Sunday and after fighting coronavirus for the last six weeks, she’s finally tested negative for the virus. Wegg is now overcoming a blood infection, but is close to getting on the lung transplant list.

Kari’s husband, Rodney, said before getting sick she often spent her free time as a warrior in Viking reenactments and a warrior in real life, in the NICU caring for babies at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis.

“Spent 25 years taking care of babies, running the ECMO machine that is saving her life right now,” said Rodney.

Now she’s a warrior fighting her greatest battle. Rodney said Kari’s lungs are failing and she needs a transplant. He’s a respiratory therapist at IU Health and knows the risks too well.

“I still think about kids that I have lost years ago… And it affects us,” said Rodney, as he held back tears. “It never leaves you, it never leaves you. But, you keep going in there you keep getting in the fight. You keep going into battle, because that’s what we do,” said Rodney.

That’s what he’s been doing since the pandemic started. He has been taking care of COVID-19 patients. Then in July, Rodney got a small cough for one day and the couple’s two boys had no symptoms. Kari had just recovered from walking pneumonia and got sick quickly after her husband.

“Kari, bam she coughed, got short of breath, into the hospital. Then on a ventilator, ECMO, bam – bam – bam, so you just don’t know how it is going to affect everybody,” said Rodney.

The entire family tested positive for coronavirus. They couldn’t even visit Kari, until recently. Therefore friends and family made this Facebook page to keep everyone updated on her status. They also created this meal train to help feed the family and started this fund to help with medical expenses. 

On the Facebook page, the family has shared Kari’s final post from July 23 saying “Going down for a week on the vent. If I don’t make it, I love you all…”

Love has gotten Kari to this moment, but she needs a special birthday gift.

“Her birthday is September 6th, which is a Sunday. So what’s better than having lungs for your birthday, right? That is what we have been praying for! Birthday lungs,” said Rodney.

Rodney is holding onto prayers and said he has hope that God’s plan is to get this warrior back in the NICU where she belongs.

“Kari will get her new lungs and she will be right back in there, you know, fighting the fight again,” said Rodney.