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Fit and healthy dad who didn't get Covid-19 jab needed double lung transplant

A fit and healthy dad who almost died when he caught Covid-19 has had both of his lungs replaced.

Cesar Franco was left ‘shackled to life support’ machines by the illness but has been given a new lease of life by the drastic procedure.

The 50-year-old is the first patient to receive a double transplant for complications arising from the coronavirus. 

He caught it just before Christmas last year and would have expected to recover quickly as he had no underlying health conditions.

But the father-of-one, from Streatham in south London deteriorated to the point where he had to be placed on a ventilator and life support machine at St Thomas’ hospital in central London.

Within days he went on to develop inflammation of the lungs, leading to lung fibrosis, scarring of the lung tissue which meant he was unable to breath on his own.

Mr Franco remained in the intensive care unit (ICU) for five months before being transferred to Harefield Hospital, where he went on to have the surgery. 

His surgeon described him as being a ‘prisoner in ICU’ before but is now recovering at home five months after being operated on.

Mr Franco had not received a Covid-19 jab before he caught the virus but has since been vaccinated.

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.

‘The doctors, nurses and physiotherapists that were by my side during my time in the hospital became my rock.

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

‘My donor gave me the gift of life with their selfless decision to be an organ donor.’

He hopes to gradually return to his work as a maintenance engineer at a five-star hotel in the capital.

For now, he is spending time with his wife Gosia and his 13-year-old son Gabriel, taking daily walks with them.

Professor John Dunning, director of heart and lung transplantation at Harefield Hospital, said: ‘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.’

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