Saturday, 30 Sep 2023

Fit and healthy man, 50, gets lung transplant following Covid

Baby has youngest double lung transplant

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Before he caught COVID-19 just before Christmas last year, 50-year-old Cesar Franco described himself as a fit and healthy man.

Despite this, he was soon on a ventilator and life support machine at St Thomas’ Hospital in London.

Fast-forward to the upcoming Christmas of 2022, and Mr Franco has had to have a double lung transplant as a result of complications arising from his Covid infection.

Although the operation has been declared a success, it has shown just how much damage the virus can cause.

During the course of 2022, before the operation, Mr Franco developed severe inflammation of the lungs and a condition known as fibrosis.

Such was the extent of his condition that he could not breathe on his own.

Unvaccinated at the time of his infection last year, Mr Franco, now vaccinated, was offered the double lung transplant earlier this year.

At first wary of the operation, he underwent the procedure in June.

Speaking about the experience, he 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.”

Following on from the operation, he was discharged from care at the end of the Summer in August and has been spending time with family.

What makes Mr Franco’s case even more remarkable is that it is the first double lung transplant successfully performed in the UK.

In light of all that he went through, Mr Franco was full of praise for the team of medical personnel and the donor who ensured his survival throughout this period.

He said: “They made sure to support me physically and emotionally during my lowest and most vulnerable times. 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.

“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.”

On the operation, the director of heart and lung transplantation at Harefield Hospital where Mr Franco was treated, Professor John Dunning said: “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. 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.”

As a result, not only does this highlight the potential long term complications of Covid illness, but another health crisis looming over the UK.

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