Woman has double lung transplant after surviving COVID-19

Carmen Lerma is known for her work with UMOS in Milwaukee and her tireless efforts to help the community.

Now her brother tells us the same community is helping her in the fight of her life.

"She has the strength of a warrior," Mario Ortiz said.

The last time Mario Ortiz was able to physically see his big sister Carmen Lerma was about four months ago.

Mario Ortiz

"She's someone that I always go to for advice," Ortiz said.

He says his sister taught him about balance: there's a time for laughing and there's a time for business.

In July of this year, time stopped. 

"It was tough, it was difficult," Ortiz said.

Lerma tested positive for COVID-19. 

Her diagnosis worsened when her oxygen levels plunged to 30%. 

"Her husband, thank goodness, was there and got her into the hospital in time," Ortiz said.

Lerma, is an executive assistant and events coordinator for UMOS in Milwaukee. 

She advocates and helps Latinos in the community and is also a mother of two. 

Her diagnosis caused damage to her lungs and surviving would require a double lung transplant. 

"Scared, worried not being able to communicate with her," he said.

When people started learning of the fight for her life, they rushed to help, raising over $30,000 on Go Fund Me for her medical expenses. 

"The reason the community has reached out the way they have is because they have been impacted by Carmen in some way," Ortiz said.

Her surgery last week in Madison was a success, taking 12 long hours to complete. The family has only been able to see her virtually. 

"The first time we heard her voice after surgery, it was amazing," he said.

While she is still in the early stages of recovering, she managed to make her little brother laugh, when she whistled using her new lungs.

"It was pretty emotional, but it was funny, as well," Ortiz said.

Mario tells us he is looking forward to seeing his sister in person after all this time. he says they are grateful for all the support they've received. 

Efforts to help Carmen are still happening in-person and online.