The Carlos Haya Hospital in Malaga held an event on Tuesday to mark twenty years since the hospital carried out its first liver transplant operation. Since 14 March 1997 surgeons and medical staff at the hospital have performed 921 other, similar operations, with 53 of those taking place last year alone.
The anniversary event was led by the deputy minister of health at the Junta de Andalucía, María Isabel Baena, and the provincial delegate for health, Ana Isabel González.
María Isabel Baena said that this was a day that all residents in Malaga could be proud of, highlighting "the solidarity shown by the families who have agreed to donate their organs to a loved one who was about to die", while also praising a public health system which "responds to the needs of those who require a transplant".
The deputy minister also thanked the team of professionals in charge of carrying out the operations, highlighting the "magnificent job" they have done to restore the life and dreams of more than 900 people.
She also explained that the organ donation rate in the province currently stands at 60 people per every million residents, a figure above both the regional and national averages of 47.1 per million and 43 per million respectively.
For the deputy minister, this statistic was "the best example of solidarity" in Malaga province.
The doctor in charge of surgical services at the hospital, Julio Santoyo, commented on the development of the transplant process over this 20-year period, not just in the operating room but also in relation to the improvements made to help monitor patients' recovery after treatment.
There has also been a significant increase in staff now taking part in the operations, with each liver transplant surgery involving between 20 and 50 professionals. Santoyo explained that such high numbers of staff are needed given the more complex nature of liver transplants in comparison to operations involving more solid organs.
Such improvements have seen a huge increase in the survival rates of patients, with seven out of ten patients still being alive five years after the operation, and six out of ten still living after ten years.
One man who is living proof of this success is José López Rivas, who received an implant after being told it was the only way to save his life after being diagnosed with liver cancer.
Rivas was a teacher at the Campanillas secondary school and further education college near Malaga when he was diagnosed with the cancer .
Ten years on, Rivas is still revelling in the success of the operation, declaring that he now leads a normal life.
"Everyone who is operated on has their own story, but luckily for me mine was fantastic," he added.