France’s first Covid double lung transplant patient ‘glad to be alive’

The patient received the life-saving transplant after two months in a coma. We also explain how everyone is automatically presumed to be an organ donor in France

6 April 2021
By Hannah Thompson

A Covid-19 patient who was the first to receive a double lung transplant in France has now fully recovered from the virus. He had been in a coma for two months before the operation. 

The transplant was given to Frenchman Georges Giniaux, 59, a GP from near Arras, Pas-de-Calais, on November 1, 2020, at the Foch hospital in Paris. 

Read more: France performs its first lung transplant for Covid patient

Without the transplant, Dr Giniaux was not expected to survive. Before the operation, he had been in a coma for two months with severe Covid despite having no previous medical conditions. Both his lungs had been “completely destroyed” by the virus, medics said.

Two months after the operation, Dr Giniaux woke up. He has largely recovered, and is able to breathe and walk normally.

He told FranceInfo: “The first thing I remember is my wife and daughter telling me that I was in Paris, because I had no idea where I was.

It’s still difficult to understand that these are not my lungs, as I had no time to prepare before [the operation]. But it’s incredible. It’s a marvellous thing. I can breathe, I am alive. I have the possibility to see my friends, parents, and grandchildren.

“My life was saved. Without this transplant, I don’t think I would be here.”

Dr Antoine Roux, at the Foch hospital, said: “It’s very dangerous, to transport a patient like you...but we took a lot of risks, and it paid off.”

Dr Giniaux is now taking part in an intensive rehabilitation programme to continue his recovery. He is hoping to be able to start work again within a year.

Around 100 double lung transplants on Covid patients have been completed worldwide, but this was a first for France. Double lung transplants, even on non-Covid patients, are also rare.

The Foch hospital - which is very experienced in giving transplants - is now considering the cases of around a dozen other Covid-19 patients, who might also be helped by a lung transplant.

Donor list in France

In France, organ donation works on the principle that you have opted-in by default. If you do not wish to be considered, you must manually opt-out.

To put your name on the national “opt-out” list, the Registre National des Refus, you can sign up online on the website. Once signed up, you can alter your registration or remove your name completely at a later date. 

You can also give a relative a dated and signed document, which they will then pass on to the relevant medical team when the time comes. If you wish to opt-out but cannot write such a document yourself, a document can be drawn up by a third party in the presence of two witnesses.

And, since 2016, relatives can also simply tell a relative that they do not wish for their organs to be used after death. In this case, the medical team will ask the relatives to specify the circumstances of the refusal, and will ask them to sign a written transcript.

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