On April 7, the USC Transplant Institute hosted a flag-raising ceremony to mark National Donate Life Month — a celebration of eye, organ and tissue donors, recipients and physicians.

The ceremony also served as a call for further participation in organ and tissue donation, a vital choice attested to by organ recipients who spoke at the ceremony.

National Donate Life Month has been observed every April since 2003 as an effort to raise awareness about donation and to encourage more enrollment. It also honors those who have saved lives by choosing to donate.

The USC Transplant Institute raises the flag each April. It’s also raised for one week every time a Keck Hospital of USC patient makes a living donation.

“Here at Keck Medicine of USC, we can be proud of our long history and pioneering efforts as they relate to organ transplants,” said Jon Reuter, chief of operations at Keck Hospital.

Keck Medicine of USC has transplanted more than 6,000 organs since performing its first organ transplant in 1991, Reuter said.

In 2022, Keck Hospital celebrated its 500th heart transplant and 600th lung transplant. The rates for heart transplants at the hospital have more than doubled since 2019 and the volume of lung transplants is up 41% this year alone.

Keck Hospital maintains the highest one-year survival rate out of all heart transplant centers in California, according to data from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients.  Since July 1, 2019, 96.8% of patients at Keck Hospital have survived with functioning transplants one year after surgery.

In addition to being the top living-donor liver transplantation program in Southern California, Keck Hospital is also among the top five medical organizations in the nation for this procedure, Reuter said.

“This is a remarkable achievement by all measures,” Reuter said. “Today’s event is an opportunity for us all to celebrate this incredible success while also focusing on how we can better protect, preserve and prolong human life.”

Patricia Stricklin, associate administrator of transplant at Keck Medicine, introduced patients whose lives were saved by transplants at Keck Hospital — including Ana Sanchez and Janine Dandan, a mother and daughter.

In 2022, Dandan arrived at Keck Hospital in urgent need of a liver transplant to survive the effects of a rare congenital condition called Abernethy malformation.

Sanchez, who works as an OB/GYN in Orange County, was a match for a living-donor donation to her daughter. The successful transplant took place at Keck Hospital last year, without further complications.

“You saved not just one life, but two,” Sanchez said. “You saved my life too. I could not have lived without my daughter.”

—Michael Juliani