SULLIVAN TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Life is unpredictable. No one understands that better than Erik and Jennifer Menges, a married couple from Sullivan Township in Ashland County.
After reflecting on the past year, Jennifer has a particular refrain that plays over and over in her head, "Life happens."
They have faced the bad— a nearly deadly battle with COVID-19, but now they're embracing the good— a new home, a new baby boy and a fresh start.
In August 2021, both of them caught the virus. Jennifer recovered relatively quickly, but COVID attacked Erik's lungs, leading to respiratory failure. His life hung in the balance.
He was taken by medical helicopter from Cleveland Clinic Medina Hospital to the main campus in Cleveland. Jennifer was told survival for Erik didn't seem likely.
"They gave him a 5% chance (of living) and they said, unfortunately, that it may work, it may not," she said.
However, the medical staff, along with the use of an ECMO machine— which adds oxygen to the blood— saved Erik's life.
"At the stage I was in at that point, I couldn't even walk. I could barely eat. I could barely talk and I'm thinking, I don't know if I'd ever have a normal life again," he told News 5.
However, a year later, Erik has made a remarkable recovery. He still has scarring on his lungs, but he feels good and said his life is somewhat back to normal.
"Eventually, my goal is to start running again like I did prior to COVID," he said.
Given a second chance at a life together, the couple moved up their wedding three months early and got married by Cleveland Clinic Chaplain Brent Raitz in November of 2021. He became close with couple through the COVID ordeal, often praying with them.
"We thank God a lot. I think we say it a lot that we just are so happy to have the life that we do," Jennifer said.
But life is full of surprises and the couple— who have have three children from previous relationships— received an amazing surprise when they learned last spring that Jennifer was pregnant.
During this time, the Menges family was also looking for a new home. They were planning to build, but then found a home they loved in Sullivan Township and moved in 11 days ago.
But, they had no time to settle. On their first night at the new house, their baby, Maverik, decided it was time to enter the world— 20 days before his due date of Christmas Eve.
"My water broke actually at five in the morning, so we didn't even get a full night, but that's okay. We just headed to the hospital," Jennifer said.
For the couple, it was the gift of life once again.
"Lots of miracles, lots of surprises and lots of blessings," Erik said.
Maverik, who was born on December 4, is doing great. He's happy, healthy and "very chill", according to his mother.
Another change for the couple took place in 2022. Jennifer was already working as a real estate agent. This year, Erik became one also. They work together and are enjoying the partnership.
"A new house, a new baby, new wife, a new life basically, so pretty much lots and lots of blessings," he said.
The couple has been through a lot in the past year, but as Jennifer repeated, "Life happens."
They said they feel very grateful this Christmas season to have the chance to share a life lesson.
"Enjoy every minute that we are granted. You just never know when it will be your last," Erik said.
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