CLEVELAND (WJW) – The U.S. hit a healthcare milestone as 1 million organ transplants have been performed in this country, decades after the first successful kidney transplant in 1954.

“In December of 2021 I was diagnosed with liver cancer and that’s kind of what accelerated the need for a transplant.”

Joseph Bianco, 63, of Canfield says because of his blood type, he was pretty low on the waiting list to receive a liver transplant.

That is, until his son David Bianco, 33, was identified as a perfect match for a living donor.

Joseph said, “They honed in on David because he was genetically a match to me. So, once they found him, they disregarded everybody else.”

“I knew time wasn’t really on our side, so I was just ready to jump in,” said David.

Both father and son are contributing to a major milestone when it comes to transplants. The Cleveland Clinic has performed close to 16,000 of those transplants, including liver, lung and kidney.

Doctors say living donors help to lessen the wait time for organ recipients.

And there have been major improvements to the procedure since its inception, with the Cleveland Clinic performing the first laparoscopic living donor surgery in the Midwest three years ago. Cleveland Clinic is still one of the few hospitals in the world to offer the minimally invasive procedure.

Director of liver transplantation at the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Koji Hashimoto says, “The recovery time for living donor is much shorter, and the use of pain medication we have to use after surgery is much much less, so recovery time is much faster.”

On August 3rd, David donated a piece of his liver to save his father’s life at the Cleveland Clinic.

Both are now on the road to recovery, spending more quality time with family…living every day to the fullest.

“…he has a boat and we’re going to be doing a bit of boating and fishing together,” said David.

Joseph said, “…my biggest support was my family, my son, my wife, my daughter, my grandkids. This is what I had to live for.”

So far this year, more than 24,000 people have had a transplant operation, according to the United Network for Sharing Organs.

Almost 16,000 people are currently waiting for a life-saving organ transplant, with kidneys being the highest in demand.