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Four Siblings, Two Donor Organs and Two Saved Lives

Originally published May 15, 2024

Last updated May 15, 2024

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Four siblings who participated in an organ swap and one of their doctors.

An incredible story of hope, family and medical innovation

The problem seemed insurmountable.

A young woman born with an incurable liver disease needed a liver transplant, but her brother, who offered to donate part of his liver, was not a match.

Meanwhile, a father of three was experiencing kidney failure due to a congenital disease. His sister offered to donate one of her kidneys, but her organ was incompatible with his.

Their Keck Medicine of USC treatment teams realized that the two families, who did not know each other, could help one another. Testing revealed that the brother and sister who had offered to donate their organs were actually a match — not for their relative, but for the sibling in need of a transplant in the other family.

By giving an organ to a stranger, they would save their own sibling.

All four signed on to this innovative lifesaving solution, and underwent a successful dual organ paired exchange performed by USC Transplant Institute surgeons.

Today, all four patients are feeling well and back to their regular activities, happy to be alive and to have given a beloved sibling good health. Their doctors say that all four can expect to live healthy lives.

Our living donor transplant programs

This miraculous story is but one of many our USC Transplant Institute has to share, and highlights the importance of our living donor kidney and liver transplant programs.

Currently over 100,000 Americans are awaiting an organ transplant. A living donor transplant generally allows a patient to receive an organ more quickly than if they were on a waiting list. Living organ transplantation is safe, with a low rate of post-surgical complications.

Typically, as in the case of the sibling paired exchange, donors are motivated to save a loved one’s life. But some donate to strangers. Our surgeons have performed several such “altruistic” transplants, including three athletes who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro together who each gave, not one, but two organs to people they didn’t know. In one case, the donor gave two organs to the same patient, saving their life twice.

USC Transplant Institute achievements

The impact of our living donor transplant program is just one of the USC Transplant Institute’s many achievements:

  • Keck Medicine has transplanted more than 6,000 organs since performing its first organ transplant in 1991.
  • In 2022, Keck Hospital of USC 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% in 2024.
  • 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, 95.06% of patients at Keck Hospital have survived with functioning transplants one year after surgery.

Expanded transplant services

To make transplantation more accessible, Keck Medicine has opened a new clinic in Las Vegas to help patients in need of a liver or heart transplant. The Las Vegas area offers few transplantation services, and this clinic is the first in Nevada to offer care for those needing a heart transplant. Patients will receive pre- and post-surgical care at the clinic in Las Vegas, and travel to Keck Hospital for the transplantation surgery.

When it comes to saving lives, our transplant specialists push past barriers that might stop others, as the case of the remarkable dual-organ sibling exchange proves so well.

This miraculous study is but one of many our USC Transplant Institute has to share, and highlights the importance of our living donor kidney and liver transplant programs.

Rod Hanners, CEO of Keck Medicine

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Rod Hanners
Rod Hanners is the CEO of Keck Medicine of USC.

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