As part of a program commemorating National Donate Life Month, the USC Transplant Institute hosted a flag-raising ceremony on April 17 in front of Keck Hospital of USC. The event aimed to recognize and celebrate eye, organ, and tissue donors, recipients and the physicians who make these donations possible.

Every April, the USC Transplant Institute raises the organization’s flag, which is also raised for one week every time a Keck Hospital patient makes a living donation. National Donate Life Month has been observed since 2003 in an effort to raise awareness about donation and to encourage more enrollment. It also honors those who have saved lives by choosing to donate.

This most recent flag-raising event served as an opportunity to call for further participation in organ and tissue donation. During the event, Marty Sargeant, chief executive officer of Keck Medical Center of USC, highlighted the important role organ donation plays in the effort to save lives. Organ donors and recipients present at the event also shared their experiences with the audience and commended the critical role Keck Medicine has played in the effort to protect and prolong life.

“Here at Keck Medicine, we can be proud of our long history and pioneering efforts as they relate to organ transplants,” Sargeant said. He added, “We began conducting organ transplants in 1991 with the successful transplant of a kidney. This was followed by a lung in 1992, a heart in 1993 and a liver in 1996, while the first living donor liver was transplanted in 1999.”

Sargeant went on to say that over the past year, the USC Transplant Institute oversaw the organization’s first ever liver/kidney swap, which adds to the medical enterprise’s history of groundbreaking transplantation achievements. Keck Medicine has transplanted more than 6,000 organs since performing its first organ transplant in 1991, and according to data from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, patients at Keck Hospital have some of the nation’s highest rates of survival with functioning transplants one year after surgery.

Over the last two years, 64 lives have been saved thanks to organ donors and 47 people have had their sight restored through cornea transplantation. In addition, 3,000 lives have been enhanced through tissue donation.

Sargeant then commended the medical center’s remarkable transplantation achievements and thanked the donors, physicians, and accompanying support staff and personnel that allow these accomplishments to be successful.

The CEO’s remarks were followed by an introduction from Patricia Stricklin, associate administrator of transplant at Keck Hospital, who introduced patients whose lives were saved by transplants. Liver donor Katherine Minaya also addressed the audience and shared how her donation experience has positively impacted her life and the life of the person she has saved.

A moving speech was also delivered by former patient Christopher Arce, who spent a lifetime suffering from hereditary heart disease before his heart transplant. His cardiomyopathy was inherited from the paternal side of his family, and his diagnosis was made at the age of 37. Christopher’s doctors informed him that he would be a good candidate for transplantation, and he made the courageous decision to entrust his life to the expert care provided by the USC Transplant Institute. Four years after his transplant, Christopher is alive and well and attributes the success of his procedure to the transplant program’s many talented caregivers.

“I want to extend my gratitude to the teams from 4 ICU, 5 ICU, and the dedicated staff of 5 North,” Acre said, adding, “Their care and dedication got me to where I am today. Thank you!”

— Shaheen AlHaddad