‘It can happen to anybody’: Northwest Indiana teen dies from COVID-19 after 6 months in ICU

Coronavirus

OAK LAWN, Ill. — An 18-year-old Northwest Indiana teen lost his battle against COVID-19 after months of battling the virus in the ICU.

Carlos Nunez Jr., of Lake Station, died Sunday at Advocate Christ Hospital as doctors thought he was improving following multiple stints in medically-induced comas battling the virus.

Nunez Jr., then 17, contracted COVID-19 in April — a couple weeks before his age group was eligible for vaccines in Indiana.

In the same ICU unit was his 15-year-old brother Pablo Nunez, who contracted the virus at the same time as his older brother. Both of their parents were vaccinated.

 “Both had birthdays in hospital,” brother-in-law Lon Bailey said.

Carlos was known as the second man of the house — due to his 62-year-old father’s battle with early onset Alzheimer’s.

Carlos and his family

“(Carlos) was Pablo’s caretaker, their father has Alzheimer’s at the age of 62, poor Carlos was the second man of the house,” Bailey said.

What is hurting his family the most is that the would-be Edison High School senior seemed to be on the mend before his death on Sunday.

The former athlete and honor’s student, who wanted to become an air traffic controller, was walking and talking in August after a long struggle in the ICU.

“He was deaths doorstep for months, he just started to get better a few weeks before his death. It was long enough where we let our guards down,” Bailey said. “(Doctors) were contemplating that there would be likely only a few more weeks until his release.”

On Saturday night, his mother called him to say goodnight — as she did every night.

“He had a great day, it was about 11:30 at night. Right after midnight, his aorta bursts and seven minutes later he died,” Bailey said.

Family believes he immediately passed out and did not suffer.

“His last words were ‘I love you’ his mother,” Bailey said.

Carlos died from complications of COVID-19 with obesity as a secondary factor, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.

As family gets ready for his wake and funeral, they’re concerned 15-year-old Pablo is going to be battling survivor’s guilt as he continues to recover from COVID-19.

Pablo and family

Pablo was released in mid-August and faces two to three years of physical therapy to strengthen his lungs and heart. The Edison High School sophomore is back in school remotely as his dependency on supplemental oxygen is getting better.

“Indiana doesn’t have a mask mandate so he wanted to go back remotely,” Bailey said. “The school was very accommodating and went out of their way to be helpful.”

After dealing with the loss of Carlos, family is hoping people know serious illness from COVID-19 can happen to young people.

“It can happen to anybody, not just adults,” Bailey said. “If you don’t want to be safe, be respectful and wear masks in public.”

Pablo told WGN News his brother wanted more people to get the vaccine.

“He wanted people to get the vaccine so they wouldn’t go through the same thing he went through,” Nunez said. “People should get it so there won’t be more people dying because it’s really hard.”

Nunez Jr.’s wake is Friday at Rees Funeral Home in Hobart from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. A GoFundMe for the family has raised over $15,000.

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