Milwaukee community leader discharged from hospital after double-lung transplant

NOW: Milwaukee community leader discharged from hospital after double-lung transplant

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A much-loved community leader is out of the hospital after major surgery and battling COVID-19.

After spending almost four months in the hospital, Carmen Lerma was discharged with a new set of lungs and is now breathing on her own.

"I just had physical therapy today and look at my arms, girl, look," Lerma said, showing us the bruising on her arms after being in the hospital for nearly four months. "That's just one arm. Look at this one. Those are from the IV lines and all of that stuff, but they were so horrible."

She was discharged earlier this week. 

"The entire time that they had me on the treadmill I was at 99-percent. No oxygen, no nothing. It just feels so good to be able to breathe with nothing hanging on your nose," Lerma said.

She says a moment like this left her filled with emotions as she said goodbye to the hospital staff she grew close to.

"Literally bawling. I'm like I don't mean to say bye, but I got to go. I want to go home. It was exciting."

"I went right to my mom and I gave her a big hug, and to my husband and my brother," Lerma said. "It was just like whoa. And then I took this deep breath just like, oh my God. Outside air, it feels so good. So I was really happy."

This beloved community member is still limited as far as who she can see. 

"This is per the doctors, they need to get tested for COVID and they have to be negative. And even so, I still have to wear my mask and they still have to wear their mask as long as they're around me."

She currently doesn't know who the donor or their family are, but hopes she can some day meet them.

"I want them to know that I'm so grateful," Lerma said. "They gave me a second chance in life and while they're grieving, I also want to show them that those lungs came to someone that really cares and that are helping others."

As she continues to take certain precautions, she hopes others in the community can do the same.

"This is no joke. Make sure you wear your mask. Make sure you keep your distance, and I'll continue to advocate that all the time."

Carmen says she's in the process of writing a letter to the donor's family and then deliver it to her hospital coordinator. 

The coordinator then delivers it to the family, who then decide if they would like to meet Carmen and maintain a relationship.

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