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Coronavirus US: Wisconsin woman, 52, has double lung transplant

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A Wisconsin mother received a life-saving double lung transplant after a four-month-long battle with the novel coronavirus.  

Carmen Lerma, 52, a director at United Migrant Opportunity Services, in Milwaukee, tested positive for COVID-19 in July.

Her health quickly deteriorated and she was admitted to the hospital, spending 45 days in the intensive care unit on a ventilator.

Doctors quickly determined that the virus had caused irreversible damage to Lerma’s lungs and she wouldn’t be able to leave the hospital until she received a new set.

After spending just a few days on the transplant waiting list, a match was found for Lerma and, two weeks later, she was finally released from the hospital and able to reunite with her family. 

Carmen Lerma, 52, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has undergone a life-saving double lung transplant after a four-month-long battle with coronavirus. Pictured: Lerma being released from the hospital 

‘I haven’t seen [my family] in a while so to just get up and come to them is priceless,’ Lerma said a UW Health blog post.

‘I never thought that I would be able to do this again, so I really..want to thank all the UW Health doctors and nurses, It was a rough journey, but a great ending.’ 

In July, Lerma got a call from the state health department telling her she has been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, according to WTMJ-TV.

She subsequently she tested positive as well and soon admitted to Ascension St Francis in Milwaukee.

She spent 45 days on a ventilator and, although she managed to be extubated, the virus did irreversible damage to her lungs. 

‘I got double pneumonia. I got attacked through my immune system,’ Lerma told WISN 12

‘This coronavirus attacked me in every way possible that it could.’ 

Lerma does not have any underlying health conditions and said she quit smoking several years ago.

She was then transferred to UW Health, in Madison, where she was told she would remain until a donor was found.  

‘It’s hard to know much time Carmen would have had,’ said Dr Dan McCarthy, a UW Health cardiothoracic surgeon, in the blog post.

‘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 to the point where we did actually place her on the artificial lung machine.’

The machine, known as an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine, pumps and oxygenates a patient’s blood outside the body, which allows the heart and lungs to rest. 

After she was extubated, Lerma’s doctors told her the virus had cause permanent damage to her lungs and she needed a double lung transplant. Lerma was transferred to UW Health, in Madison, and, after just a few days on the transplant list, a match was found. Pictured: Lerma before contracting the virus, left, and in the hospital, right

Two weeks after her surgery, and four months after her diagnosis, Lerma was able to leave the hospital and reunite with her family (above)

Luckily, after just a few days on the transplant list, doctors found a match to give Lerma a second chance at life.

Last Thursday, two weeks after her transplant surgery and four months after her COVID-19 diagnosis, she left the transplant unit at University Hospital.

Video captured her reuniting outside the hospital entrance with her husband, her brother and her mother.  

She said she wants to make sure others remember to war their masks to protect themselves and others.

‘Put your mask on,’ Lerma told WISN 12. 

‘Maybe you don’t care, but protect your parents, your kids, your grandparents, because they are the ones that are going to battle the most.’    

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