Alabama man comes to Cleveland for rare life-saving surgery

It's a transplant surgery that few people realize is possible but it's been done at Cleveland Clinic for several years.

Senior health correspondent Monica Robins reports on a man who had his intestines transplanted to not only save his life but allow him to truly live it.

Kevin and Amy Decker are from Alabama. They moved to Cleveland in January for one reason -- to save Kevin's life.

Kevin started suffering from ulcerative colitis in 1998. By 2011, his small intestine was dead.

"So they had removed everything but a hundred centimeters of my small intestine and gave me something called short bowel syndrome," he said.

Kevin could no longer eat. He survived with artificial nutrition fed through a tube. But no one can eat like that for long.

Doctor Kareem Abu-Elmagd is a world-renowned transplant surgeon specializing in intestinal transplants at the Cleveland Clinic. He took on Kevin's case and prepped him for an intestinal transplant. Kevin's problems were enormous.

"He was amazed that I was even alive because of the amount of infections I had in the abscesses," Kevin said.

Kevin became well enough to get to his daughter's wedding in May, but in July he got the call -- a donor intestine was available. Eleven days after surgery, he left the hospital.

"That one day I finally got to eat -- two years went by, I didn't eat," he said.

Mashed potatoes and gravy never tasted so good.

Amy never left his side. Before all of this, she wasn't an organ donor. She is now.

"Why should I take it with me? I'm not going to need it anymore and if it's still working and it can help somebody else to have a good quality of life to spend with their family or children or grandchildren, give it to them," she said.

"A part of him will always live in me, and that family can know I have the utmost respect for that donor, and I'll do everything I can to keep that memory alive," Kevin said.


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