As Director of Community and Corporate Events at UMOS, Inc., Carmen Lerma is usually the one helping others. From providing backpacks with school supplies at the Back-To-School Fair to offering gifts and a pancake breakfast at the Breakfast With Santa, Carmen is known for her generous nature.

But when she became sick with a serious case of COVID-19 in July, it was Carmen who needed help.

COVID attacked Carmen’s lungs, causing them to develop scar tissue. The damage was so great that her oxygen levels dropped to 31%, overstressing her heart and requiring supplemental oxygen just to survive. The only option left was a double lung transplant. Carmen needed the help of someone else.

After being transferred from St. Francis Hospital in Milwaukee to UW-Health in Madison, an anonymous organ donor and her family gave Carmen the gift of life, a new set of lungs on October 21. As Carmen recovers from the successful lung transplant, she has found a new way to help others in the community—by encouraging them to register to be organ, tissue, and eye donors.

“What are you going to do with your organs when you’re underground? If you can give life to someone, why wouldn’t you?” asks Carmen.