(CBS) — It’s an anniversary a lot of them didn’t expect to live to see. Organ recipients gathered Sunday morning in Rosemont to mark 50 years since Northwestern Medicine’s first transplant.

WBBM’s Nancy Harty reports Brad Szczecinski was in his mid-20s when he received a kidney from someone he barely knew 17 years ago.

“We didn’t necessarily expect it to last this long, but I think it is probably because my donor was healthy, I was healthy prior to being sick or ill with the issues with my kidney and I have just been able to active and be compliant, take my medications and I have led a really full life,” said Szczecinski.

Szczecinski was at brunch where Northwestern doctors talked about how they are transplanting cells instead of entire organs, essentially growing new organs and using cell-therapies instead of drugs to fight organ rejection.

Northwestern Medicine does about 450 organ transplants a year.