HOMEWOOD, Ill. — A 39-year-old teacher in the suburbs is fighting for her life after she contracted COVID-19 last month.

Cherie Garza’s family and friends could not believe how quickly she got sick and how fast the middle school teacher went downhill.

She is a reading specialist who works with seventh graders at Crete Monee Middle School, but Garza will not be back for the start of the school year after contracting the virus in the middle of July.

After her health deteriorated, she was airlifted to Loyola and has been in the ICU ever since.

“On Tuesday, they called us and said she had a 1.1% chance for survival, all her numbers were bad, her organs were declining,” father Gene Kiepura said.

Her parents said she was planning on getting vaccinated before the start of the school year, but didn’t get it in time.

“She was concerned which would be the safest for her because I’ve had allergic reactions to vaccines and most of them I can’t get. And her sister has had anaphylactic reactions to antibiotics, so there’s a history of bad reactions and she was trying to determine which one to get, and unfortunately she got this disease before she got one,” mother Jan Kiepura said.

Now, her parents are begging area residents to get vaccinated as the Delta variant continues to surge.

“I don’t want anyone, anyone to suffer and go through what she has been going through this past month,” her parents said.

Garza is still very ill but recently came out of a medically-induced coma. Her family is holding out hope that she will get better. In the meantime, friends have started a GoFundMe.

It has raised nearly $20,000.