Rockford woman leaves hospital with new lungs, 10 months after COVID-19 infection

Doctors say the odds of surviving were not in her favor, but Darlene Johnson beat those odds.
One Rockford woman leaves the hospital with new lungs after a ten month health journey
One Rockford woman leaves the hospital with new lungs after a ten month health journey(UW Health)
Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 6:32 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - After ten months of fighting for her life, one Rockford woman walks out of the UW-Health Hospital in Madison with new lungs and a different perspective on the world.

Darlene Johnson was 37 weeks pregnant with her daughter Hazel, when she entered the hospital with COVID-19 in September of 2021.

“They decided that I needed to have the baby, because my body was in distress and it was affecting her,” said Darlene.

Less than 24 hours later, doctors at UW Health Swedish American in Rockford, delivered Darlene’s baby girl, Hazel, by c-section. A day later, Darlene’s lungs failed, unable to function with the virus running through her body.

“I was paralyzed, I was alive, but I wasn’t living,” said Johnson. “They said I probably wasn’t going to live past the next 24 hours.”

“It broke me,” said Darlene’s Husband Lincoln Johnson. “Trying to come to grips with the fact that I was going to be alone with my two daughters, knowing how good of a mom Darlene was.”

While Darlene needed a lung transplant, she was too weak to go through with it. While many other hospitals turned her case down, she was transferred to UW Health in Madison, where the doctors say they wouldn’t give up fighting for her.

“I could die during this surgery, but if I don’t have this surgery I will die,” said Darlene.

The mom of two says the doctors at UW Health in Madison, saved her. They found a match in March, and months later, she walked out of the hospital with a celebration. Darlene’s nurses, doctors, therapists and many other healthcare support staff applauded her on the way.

“It was so special, my husband and I walked out of the hospital together,” said Darlene.

Darlene says she beat all the odds, and left the hospital with not just new lungs, but a new appreciation for life.

“Theres not a lot of words to explain it,” said Darlene.

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