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Russiaville man gets a second chance at life after successful bowel transplant

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A Russiaville man was given a second chance at life after undergoing a bowel transplant.

Tony Finch was a normal and healthy adult up until October 2017. That was when he started to rapidly lose weight out of the blue.

In total, he lost 60 pounds over a couple of months. He had to visit multiple doctors before he ended up at IU Health. No one could figure out why he suddenly stopped absorbing nutrition from the food he ate.

“When I met Tony, he was very weak, severely malnourished, and had a very poor quality of life because of his gastrointestinal symptoms. By the time he was referred to our intestine transplant team, he had tried a lot of diets and some specialized tube feeding, and all of those failed. His only option was to go on total parenteral nutrition (TPN),” said Tracy Burch, a Senior Clinical Dietitian at IU Health University Hospital.

This procedure is becoming more successful and is saving lives for those who have no other options. It took 21 months for Finch to finally get his transplant. Burch, his dietitian, was a key part of getting him healthy enough for this surgery and his recovery after it.

“He actually had some of the highest IV needs that I’ve seen in of any of the patients I’ve worked with. He was home on TPN and additional IV fluids. Sometimes up to 10 liters a day,” said Burch.

Finch had a successful replacement of his entire small intestine and part of his large intestine on July 11, 2019. Tony says his wife Lisa played a key role in his at-home care.

“I don’t remember a lot of this stuff because I was so dehydrated. I was hallucinating and stuff like that, and a lot of the prep getting there I don’t even remember other than her telling me I got the transplant,” said Finch.

“I think the biggest thing was keeping him nutritionally healthy enough to be out of the hospital to be home and be a good candidate for transplant,” said Lisa Finch, his wife and at-home caretaker. “Just be on IV nutrition and fluids all that time.”

“That’s 24/7 nonstop, and she’s doing a lot of the IV work here at the house,” continued Tony Finch.

He and his wife said they are grateful he went from the sick version of himself to playing with his grandkids, all because of his medical team.

“I appreciate it a lot more,” Tony Finch. “Hanging out with the kids, grandkids, the wife.”

The Finchs go to regular follow-up appointments to make sure Tony is not rejecting his new organs.

This July, Tony will celebrate the four-year anniversary of his second chance at life.