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In all formats: Nurse battles back from COVID, lung transplant

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Adam Geller, national writer, New York, joined by video journalist Teresa Crawford and photographer Charlie Arbogast, both based in Chicago, produced a powerful and intimate narrative of one nurse’s precarious fight to survive COVID-19 — including the double lung transplant that saved her life.

Geller had wanted to find a health care worker recovering after being incapacitated by COVID. He started out calling hospitals with lung transplant and COVID long-hauler programs in New York, Chicago, Florida, Texas and California. Only a handful had done lung transplants on COVID patients — even fewer on health care workers — and most did not end up putting him in touch with patients. But Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital, which had performed the first and, by far, the most COVID lung transplants, put him in touch with nurse Kari Wegg, who at one point before her transplant had been in a coma with little chance of recovery.

Wegg got winded during their first phone conversation,a couple of weeks after she returned home,but she and her husband were open to telling their story. The AP trio spent large parts of four days in the family’s Indiana home. The result was a riveting read with compelling visuals by Arbogast and Crawford,whose video was edited by multiformat journalist Allen Breed. The package won terrific online play,including the Chicago Tribune and Indiana news sites, with remarkably high reader engagement.

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