Family seeks prayers as Knoxville-native, nurse battles COVID-19 in Washington


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)- East Tennessee-native Kurt Julian has been fighting for his life for more than four weeks now after being placed on a ventilator due to COVID-19 complications.

Before fighting off the virus, Kurt was battling it on the front lines at a hospital outside Seattle. Kurt’s wife, Kathy, is also an ICU nurse who has been fighting on the front lines.

Kurt and Julian have been married for years and made a promise to each other long ago “to not allow the other to suffer a fate worse than death,” according to a message from Kathy that posted on Facebook by Kurt’s childhood friend Chuck Cavalaris.

Cavalaris grew up with Kurt at Arlington Baptist Church. They were instant best friends. Kurt was a person that made it hard to make other really good friends says Cavalaris, as their bond was strong and instant.

The two played on the same basketball team that Cavalaris’ father coached. His dad treated Kurt like one of his own growing up, helping him get his first job at Sears before Kurt pursued nursing.

Cavalaris spearheaded a “prayer warriors” movement on Facebook for the Julians, keeping Facebook friends and community members updated on his battle with COVID-19.

East Tennessee native Kurt Julian.

“East Tennesseeans have been a big part in trying to do whatever we can to help him get well,” says Cavalaris, noting the outpouring of support from community members has been amazing.

Prayer and faith is very important to the Julian family, and the prayers and well wishes have been comforting as Cavalaris says Kathy can feel the support from East Tennessee all the way in Washington state.

Kurt took a turn for the worse Monday according to Cavalaris. Kurt had been stable but an infection caused his condition to decline. Kurt had been treated with strong antibiotics and had been placed on a “special breathing machine,” but doctors discovered more damage to his lungs.

Kathy is now faced with that tough decision. She talked to a specialist at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle about his situation and long-term prognosis.

According to Kathy’s Facebook message, the specialist’s best guess (based on 20 years of experience in this field) was that “if Kurt survived to be able to get off ECMO (special breathing machine) and then the ventilator (likely a course of more months), he would require living in a long term care facility for intensive physical therapy before being able to come home. And in these incredibly sick individuals that actually survive, they are often saddled with crippling anxiety, depression, PTSD and possibly a long-term tracheostomy.”

After talking with an intensivist at her work who agreed with the Harborview intensivist’s opinion, she decided to “take away Kurt’s struggle.”

Unless there is a miracle, Cavalaris says Friday morning she will make the decision to let Kurt go.

According to a statistic from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention, there have been more than 62,000 cases and more than 200 deaths of health care personnel related to COVID-19.

In her message Kathy says she will be by Kurt’s side as, “he slips from this world into the arms of Jesus, guided by the best pain and sedation medications medicine can offer.”

Cavalaris noted how thankful the Julians have been for everyone’s thoughts and prayers during this difficult time for their family.

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