A London man has become the first person in the UK to receive a double lung transplant following Covid complications.
Cesar Franco, 50, from Streatham in south London, caught Covid just before Christmas last year.
Mr Franco said he was previously fit and healthy, but within days he had to be placed on a ventilator and life support machine at St Thomas’ Hospital.
His operation was successful and he is now recuperating at home.
Mr Franco, who was not vaccinated when he caught Covid, said: “Before I knew, things started to get worse to the point where I just couldn’t breathe normally.”
He was admitted to hospital and developed inflammation and scarring of the lung tissue called fibrosis, which meant he was unable to breathe on his own.
He spent five months in intensive care before being transferred to Harefield Hospital in west London, where in June he received the first double lung transplant of its kind in the UK.
Following the 11-hour operation he was discharged from care in August.
‘Gift of life’
Mr Franco, who has since been vaccinated, said: “It was a very frightening experience and I didn’t know if I would ever leave the hospital.
“I initially was hesitant when the doctors spoke to me about transplantation, I wanted my body to heal on its own, but it quickly became clear that this wasn’t an option for me, I was just so unwell.”
Since then, he said he had been taking daily walks and spending plenty of time with his family: his wife, Gosia, and his 13-year-old son Gabriel.
He added he was grateful to the team of doctors, nurses and physiotherapists who treated him with “respect, professionalism and compassion”.
“They made sure to support me physically and emotionally during my lowest and most vulnerable times,” he continued.
“My donor gave me the gift of life with their selfless decision to be an organ donor.
“I am now able to live my life again and I want to get everything out of life now I have been given this precious gift.”
e added he hoped to return to his work as a maintenance engineer at a five-star hotel in central London over the next year.
“I still cannot believe that all this happened, and that I’m using someone else’s lungs in order to be able to be alive,” he said.
‘Prisoner in ICU’
Mr Franco’s surgeon, Prof John Dunning, the director of heart and lung transplantation at Harefield Hospital, said: “Cesar’s story exemplifies everything that is great about the NHS, receiving excellent care throughout his journey.
“It was almost like he was a prisoner in ICU, shackled to life support machines, which were the difference between life and death.
“Freedom from this prison happened when he was referred to the lung transplant service at Harefield and was given a second chance at life.”
Prof Dunning said his organ donor had changed Mr Franco’s life, adding: “Cesar was fortunate because he was able to receive a transplant.
“We have seen a decrease in organ donors since the beginning of the pandemic and, as a result, many patients on transplant lists are not living long enough to receive an organ.”