Woman who survived double lung transplant after COVID plans 40 vaccine clinics

Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 2:08 PM CST
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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (WTMJ) – A woman who overcame COVID-19 is dedicating her time to helping Latin communities get vaccinated against the virus.

Her mission is based on her firsthand struggle with the virus.

“I thank God every day for being alive, and for giving me one more day to do something positive,” Carmen Lerma said. “When I wake up in the morning, that’s the first thing I do. I give thanks and I say, ‘Give me the strength. I have a lot to do today; you tell me how far I can go and I take it.’”

A long-time community advocate, Lerma’s real mission is trying to get more of Milwaukee’s Latino population vaccinated against COVID-19.

“I am Latina, and being Latina I understand that sometimes we’re hesitant to do certain things for certain reasons,” she said.

It’s been a little over a year since Lerma survived a double lung transplant after her battle with COVID-19 did irreversible damage to her lungs.

She’s still practicing how to do normal things like cough and yawn.

“The only thing that I notice different is my chest and my lung areas are tighter, so whenever I sneeze or I breathe, I can feel them expand. What it’s meant to do is to protect you enough for you not to go through what I went through,” Lerma explained.

She’s returned to working for United Migrant Opportunity Services part-time, mostly from home, but it’s not easy. She gets blood drawn every week and takes 52 pills a day to help keep her body from rejecting her new lungs.

Lerma’s battle with COVID also prompted other conditions like hair loss, diabetes and a thyroid disorder.

Just last month, she needed emergency surgery for a stomach complication.

“They told me I got so sick so quick, I don’t remember anything until I woke up,” Lerma said.

A passion to live fuels her, but the trauma she’s been through has prompted insomnia and anxiety.

Lerma’s supposed to wear a breathing machine every night but can’t get herself to put it on because it brings back memories of everything she went through.

Lerma is working with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield to set up nearly 40 vaccination clinics.

Vaccination rates among Wisconsin’s Latin community is lagging behind other groups.

Copyright 2021 WTMJ via CNN Newsource. All rights reserved.