Carmen Lerma, a community organizer, reportedly spent 45 days on a ventilator after testing positive for the novel coronavirus in July. Lerma said she lost 40 pounds because she had trouble eating and developed blisters and sores on her face from the medical equipment.
The disease took such a toll on her lungs that she was transferred to University Hospital in Madison, Wis. in October, where she spent just days on a transplant list, said a release.
Lerma’s doctors soon received word that another patient had died, giving Lerma a renewed chance at life. The hospital said Lerma is the first patient in Wisconsin to undergo a double lung transplant due to COVID-19.
“It’s hard to know how much time Carmen would’ve had, even in the two weeks that she was with us in the hospital, although she was committed and working hard, we saw a decline in her function,” Dr. Dan McCarthy, cardiothoracic surgeon at UW Health, said in a short video clip released by the hospital. “We did actually place her on the artificial lung machine.”
Two weeks after the transplant, and four months after her coronavirus diagnosis, Lerma was cheered on by nurses and staff as she was wheeled out of the hospital and reunited with her tearful family just outside.
“My heart was pounding, I haven’t seen them in a while so to just get up and come to them, it’s priceless. I never thought I would be able to do this again,” Lerma said, thanking UW Health and staff. “It’s been amazing. A rough journey but a great ending.”
McCarthy said Lerma still faces “a long road to recovery,” but is optimistic she can lead a life similar to pre-COVID-19 diagnosis, said the release.
Earlier this month, Lerma shared a letter on Facebook from Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers praying for her recovery. “WOW!,” Lerma wrote. “The fact that he took a few minutes to even write to me it’s an honor!”
Fox News’ Alexandria Hein contributed to this report.