Man hails success of UK’s first double lung transplant for Covid complications

A 50-year-old man who was ‘chained to life support’ has found new life after the UK’s first double lung transplant for complications from a Covid-19 infection.

Cesar Franco, a maintenance engineer at a five-star hotel in central London, caught Covid-19 just before Christmas last year.

The father-of-one, from Streatham in south London, was fit and healthy before catching the infection, but within days he deteriorated to the point he had to be placed on a ventilator and life support device at St Thomas’ hospital in central London.

He then developed inflammation of the lungs, leading to pulmonary fibrosis – scarring of the lung tissue that prevented him from breathing on his own.

Mr Franco remained in the intensive care unit (ICU) for five months before being transferred to Harefield Hospital, where he later received a double lung transplant; the first of its kind in the UK.

His surgeon described him as a “prisoner in intensive care” before the operation.

Mr. Franco received the transplant in June and is now recovering at home after being released in late August.

He hopes to gradually return to work over the coming year, but for now he is spending time with his family – his wife, Gosia, and 13-year-old son, Gabriel – and taking daily walks.

Cesar Franco has become the first patient in the UK to receive a double lung transplant after developing complications from a Covid-19 infection (Cesar Franco/PA)

Professor John Dunning, Director of Heart and Lung Transplantation at Harefield Hospital, said: “Cesar’s story exemplifies all that is great about the NHS, receiving excellent care throughout his journey.

“He was someone with an acute illness whose condition had deteriorated to such an extent that he needed the expert care of intensive care staff and a mechanical life support system.

“At this point, it was almost like he was a prisoner in intensive care, chained to life support devices that meant the difference between life and death. He was released from that prison when he was referred to the Harefield Lung Transplant Service and given a second chance at life.

“He received his transplant and was rehabilitated to return home a few months after his operation. He is now fully fit and able to spend time with his wife and son, less than a year after contracting a fatal illness.

Mr Franco spent around eight months in hospital after catching Covid-19 (Cesar Franco/PA)

Mr Franco spent around eight months in hospital after catching Covid-19 (Cesar Franco/PA)

“Cesar was lucky because he was able to receive a transplant.

“We have seen a decline in the number of organ donors since the start of the pandemic and as a result many patients on transplant lists do not live long enough to receive an organ.”

Mr Franco, who had not received a Covid-19 shot before catching the virus but has since been vaccinated, said: ‘It was a very scary experience and I didn’t know if I would ever leave l ‘hospital.

“I was hesitant at first when the doctors told me about the transplant – I wanted my body to heal on its own, but it soon became clear that this was not an option for me, I was so sick .

“The doctors, nurses and physiotherapists who were by my side during my hospital stay became my rock.

First Covid-19 double lung transplant in UK

César Franco in the hospital (Cesar Franco/PA)

“They all treated me with the utmost respect, professionalism and compassion. They made sure to physically and emotionally support me during my lowest and most vulnerable times. I cannot thank them enough for taking care of me.

“My donor gave me the gift of life with his 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 that I have received this precious gift.

“Thank you to my donor, thank you to his family and thank you to the medical teams who have all brought me to where I am now. And finally, I am so grateful to my lovely wife and my son for always showing me their love and their support during this difficult time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *