Paul Enegren doesn't know how much longer his wife might be in a hospital intensive care bed — and it's been more than three months already.
He doesn't know how badly her lungs are damaged, or what her future holds, or why H1N1 influenza had such a serious effect on her.
But he knows that Sunday night, Carolina Enegren woke up a little bit and mouthed "hi" to him around her ventilator.
And for that, he feels blessed, though he continues to ask for prayers for his wife and for an awareness of the need for flu shots.
The Enegrens had received their seasonal flu shots. Because their two boys are young and in preschool programs, they'd planned to be vaccinated against H1N1 as well, but vaccine wasn't yet widely available in the fall, as it is now.
Carolina, who is 31, was the first of the family to become ill from the H1N1 virus, back in mid-October. Paul, 33, and their two sons, Phillip-Antonio, 4, and Nicholas-Emilio, 2, also got sick.
They all got better within a few days.
But Carolina was left with a cough. And it got worse.
"It's not the H1N1 that makes you sick, it's your body's reaction to it," Paul said Monday from a small family room at Wesley Medical Center that has become a second home.
In Carolina's case, the cough progressed into acute respiratory distress syndrome, a lung condition that prevents enough oxygen from getting to the blood.
By Oct. 24, Carolina had to be hospitalized. She was moved to intensive care Oct. 27.
Weeks and weeks later, she was recovering. "She was coming off the ventilator, talking," he said.
But the respiratory distress had left holes in her lungs that had to be repaired, Paul said, and the surgery to do so sent her spiraling downward again.
A week ago, "it wasn't looking too good." Family and friends prepared for the worst.
Even now, "she's critically ill. Medicines. Ventilator. Pretty much the whole nine yards," Paul said.
But Sunday night, she woke up a little bit. "That just started happening," Paul said.
Carolina wasn't at risk for influenza complications. She doesn't smoke or drink. She's active and fit and otherwise healthy and "without a doubt, the best mom I've ever seen."
Carolina and Paul met while they were students at Northwest High School. Their relationship continued long distance when he went to Arizona for college while she went to Wichita State University.
They married in 2004, "just kind of a fairy-tale dream," Paul said.
When their children were born, Carolina decided to stay home with them. She'd returned to school a year ago, to work on an art degree to go along with her degree in biology. She's an accomplished artist, Paul said, and at one point wanted to be a medical illustrator.
With his parents, he owns LS Industries and Winona Van Norman. He is international sales manager, a position that allows him to do much of his work by phone and computer from Carolina's bedside.
Both of them have big families and lots of friends, so someone is with Carolina 24 hours a day. Their sons have been to visit a couple of times — they're much too young to be regular visitors, but exceptions were made because of the severity of Carolina's condition.
The boys are doing great, Paul said, though they miss their mother.
Paul doesn't know what the future holds for Carolina.
"Every day she has a good day, it's a chance for her lungs to heal some," he said.
But her lungs still are damaged and distressed — they weren't totally repaired during the surgery in January, she's still on a ventilator, and no one knows yet how much scar tissue there might be.
Carolina has to be off the ventilator before she can be moved to rehabilitation. And because no one knows how her lungs are, no one knows how long rehabilitation will take.
Long term, Paul doesn't know whether his wife might require oxygen or other help.
But he does know some things:
"We're a family of faith, and prayers are always welcome."
And "Even now we're a blessed family, very blessed."
And most important, "She's going to make it out of here. She's going to be fine.... No matter what, it'll be a good life."