Santos Hipolito Sirin woke up in the middle of the night in June 2013 and began engaging in some bizarre and erratic behavior.

He opened the refrigerator door in search of the bathroom. He walked behind the television set looking for his bed. The only thing he seemed to be able to say over and over was “wait for me” in his native Spanish.

Eventually he walked out of the front door of his house.

“Luckily, I sleep in pajamas,” he joked.

He wasn’t sleepwalking. Santos had been diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 2005. He was suffering from complications associated with liver damage. He regained consciousness sometime the next day without any recollection of the night before. He estimates there are 18 to 20 hours of his life he cannot account for.

Unfavorable side effects from medications and issues with insurance thwarted his various attempts at treatment. But Santos never felt any symptoms of Hepatitis C; physically, he had always felt fine.

Following, the troubling night in June, his liver became much worse and he was forced to take a leave from work. He was also forced to stop volunteering as a soccer coach on the team where his kids play. His stomach and feet became so swollen he had to rely on his five children for mobility.

Following multiple visits to his local regional hospital in Lancaster, he was transferred to LAC+USC Medical Center, where he met John Donovan, MD, assistant professor of clinical medicine at Keck Medicine of USC.

Santos was treated for his symptoms and was eagerly awaiting a clean bill of health, so he could go back to work and resume coaching his sons’ soccer team. He missed his life.

But his liver function was deteriorating. He was readmitted to Keck Medicine in September of 2013 where he underwent a life-saving liver transplant surgery performed by Kiran Dhanireddy, MD, assistant professor of surgery.

Patients treated at the Keck Medicine of USC Liver Transplant Program, led by Surgical Director Yuri Genyk, MD and Medical Director Jeffrey Kahn, MD, are among the sickest, most complex cases in Southern California. Santos was no exception, but the odds were in his favor.

The program holds the best patient survival rate in Southern California and is among the top three programs in the U.S. for higher than expected, statistically significant, post-transplant patient survival rates, according to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients. The survival rate between 2012 and 2014 was 93 percent.

Santos was part of that 93 percent — his liver transplant surgery was a success and he experienced no complications.

“I woke up from the surgery thanking God for the days that I continue to be alive, that I get to enjoy my family and see them grow and that I get to play and coach soccer once again,” he says. “I am grateful to everyone who did what they could for this miracle.”

Despite the unfavorable circumstances that brought Santos to Keck Medicine of USC, he has fond memories of his experience.

“It was like staying at a hotel. The staff would greet me by my nickname, Polo, and that makes you feel special,” he recalled. “Even the custodial staff would ask me how I was doing or whether I needed anything. I consider them angels of God.”

Now, Santos carries USC’s colors – cardinal and gold – with him everyday. Two months following his surgery, he was back on the soccer field. That’s another example of the Keck Effect – getting you back to the things you love with the people you love the most.

By Andrea Aldana