CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Charleston Area Medical Center celebrated the 30th anniversary of its kidney transplant center, the only such program in West Virginia, with a reception Sunday afternoon.

The facility opened in 1987, and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation currently manages the operations.

Doctors, hospital staff and patients gathered at the CAMC Cancer Center in Kanawha City. Green, white and blue balloons — representing CAMC’s colors — greeted those walking through the main door.

Alex Thomas/

The CAMC Kidney Transplant Center opened its doors in 1987.

Dr. Bashir Sankari, who joined the center in 1991, said before the kidney transplant center opened, West Virginians would have to drive up to six hours to receive the needed medical service.

“The closest was Pittsburgh, but sometimes they’d go to Louisville, Kentucky, the Cleveland Clinic, Duke University, UVA,” he noted. “They had to spend a lot of time on the road. Now, they have the opportunity to have it be done here in Charleston.”

Sankari said he has done more than 800 kidney transplants during his time with CAMC, who celebrated the 1,000th kidney transplant in 2012.

“Before I came here in 1991, they had already done like 150 kidneys,” he noted.

Sankari, who was taking pictures with a patient when the event’s reception began, said it was moving to see all the people the kidney center has been able to help over the past 30 years.

“Seeing some of my patients that had their kidney (transplant) 20 years ago, really makes me very proud and makes me happy that I’ve been able to help them,” he said.

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