Community rallies behind Milwaukee woman in need of double lung transplant

NOW: Community rallies behind Milwaukee woman in need of double lung transplant

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Updated: 5:10 a.m. on February 13, 2020

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A woman in need of a double lung transplant recently received her green card, allowing her to now pursue her medical treatment further.

Sara Rodriguez's lawyer posted the news on Facebook.

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Posted: 12:08 p.m. on January 20, 2020 

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – A woman in need of a double lung transplant is on standby for the organ waiting list.

While doctors do what they can to keep her alive, a community is rallying behind her at the state and local level.

Sara Rodriguez has been at Aurora St. Luke’s for about a month now, being treated for interstitial lung disease and secondary respiratory failure.

While her legal status is in the government’s hands, her attorney and her family have taken initiative by raising funds and reaching out to their networks.

“She was with shortness of breath,” explains Rene Gallegos, Sara’s husband. “She started losing a lot of weight. She got so sick she couldn’t focus. She wasn’t able to speak.”

Rene then rushed his wife to the hospital where she remains today, in the ICU, attached to tubes to help her breath.

“She’s on oxygen,” says Rene. “She cannot be without the oxygen because the co2 levels build up. The co2 levels are extremely high. They are to the point where the doctors say they’re surprised on how she’s still able to function.”

The family says doctors are keeping Sara comfortable while they serve as the referral center for a transplant hospital, since lung transplants can’t be performed at Aurora St. Luke’s.

Meanwhile, medical bills have started coming in and Sara doesn’t have medical insurance. Because of her immigration status, she does not qualify for Medicaid.

“To hear it, it’s hard,” says Rene. “To say that there’s no hope for her, that all they give her is a couple months of life and they can’t do anything...that their hands are tied behind their back as well.”

In an effort to expedite her immigration application, the couple got married in December; they hired an attorney who reached out to her network for help.

Milwaukee’s Mexican Consulate paid the application fees; even Gwen Moore’s office is involved in the effort, stating:

“While a favorable outcome cannot be guaranteed, my office is working diligently to ensure that Sara’s case receives consideration.  A request for expeditious processing of her case has been submitted to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services by my office.”

It’s a request that was echoed by Sara’s doctor in a letter that was added to her immigration application.

“Legal permanent residence in the U.S. is an imperative first step in the pursuit of a lung transplant evaluation and her dire medical circumstances make this need urgent.”

“To say that there is some kind of hope helps us feel at least a little bit more comfortable,” says Rene. “At least knowing that there’s something happening.”

If and when Sara becomes eligible for a transplant evaluation, she will need to be transferred which also comes with a price tag.

There is a GoFundMe to help the family with medical expenses.  

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