Teacher Waiting to Get Vaccine Now Fighting for Her Life After Contracting COVID: Family

Cherie Garza is in critical condition after a positive COVID-19 test in July

A Homewood middle school teacher is fighting for her life after contracting COVID-19 in mid-July.

According to her family, Cherie Garza, 39, tested positive for the virus on July 11. A short time later, she went to the emergency room due to coughing and chest pains, and was sent home.

Several days later, her health rapidly declined, and she was rushed to a Munster-hospital, according to her family. Garza was later airlifted to Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago where she is currently in critical but stable condition.

Doctors have told her family she could be in intensive care for months.

“[Her lungs] are very, very damaged,” her mom, Jan Kiepura, said. “But we have hope. We are not going to give up on her.”

Garza’s family said she was unvaccinated when she contracted COVID-19, but planned to get the shot before the school year started. Her mom encouraged those who are unsure about getting the vaccine to talk to their doctor.

“No one wants to see a loved one suffer like she’s suffering right now. Nobody should have to go through this. She was very healthy before this," she said.

Garza is a reading specialist for seventh grade students at Crete-Monee Middle School, as well as a motivational speaker.

“One of her specialties is finding out what makes each child tick and she uses that to engage them in books,” her mom said. “Most of these kids have a very low self-esteem and what she does with them is gives them a sense of dignity and self-worth.”

Her dad, Gene Kiepura, said she is known for her generosity, her faith and her kindness towards others.

“I can’t tell you how many times she has prepared a meal or bought a meal and dropped it off at someone’s house. Even for someone she doesn’t know because she found out they were going through a tough time,” Gene said. “She’s a very compassionate person…she’s just a good kid.”  

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