Northwestern Medicine performing double-lung transplants on sickest COVID-19 patients

CHICAGO (WLS) -- News of successful double lung transplants for COVID patients at Northwestern Medicine made it to Indiana - specifically to the husband of a COVID patient.

"She had no other options," Rodney Wegg said. "I knew this was her last chance."

His wife, a nurse from Westfield who cares for the sickest babies, was in trouble. The mother of two got sick with COVID in July and had been on a ventilator and machine to keep oxygen in her lungs for months.

Doctors at Northwestern Medicine had begun doing double-lung transplants to help COVID patients and evaluated Kari Wegg.

"Her lungs were completely scarred up and there was no other way to keep her alive," said Dr. Ambalavanan Arunachalam, a pulmonologist at Northwestern Medicine.

Wegg would be the sixth COVID double-Lung transplant patient at Northwestern.

"None of us expected this," she said. "None of us could have predicted it. But at least I can say I'm alive."

Wegg came to Northwestern the day before her birthday.

"Those lungs are your birthday present," her husband said. "You being alive is my birthday present."

"My body is going at its own pace. And it needs allowed time for healing. But every day I wake up incrementally stronger and able to do more," Kari Wegg said.

The recovering nurse did have enough energy to advise others today to take COVID seriously.

"Wash your hands! Wash your hands constantly, soap and water and sanitize them," she implored. "And wear a mask. It's truly important."

Wegg will go to a rehab facility and stay in Chicago for a several weeks for follow ups at with her doctors.

Northwestern Medicine said they have done more of these procedures than any other American hospital. There is currently one COVID patient on the transplant list and three others from out of state that are coming to Northwestern to see if they would be strong enough for transplant surgery.
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