CLEVELAND HTS. -- Kevin and Amy Decker are from Alabama, but moved to Cleveland Heights last January for one simple reason: to save Kevin's life.
In 1998 Kevin began suffering from Ulcerative Colitis.
The illness turned into life threatening Toxic Megacolon where the walls of his colon dilate. His colon eventually became infected and had to be removed. He was fine for 13 years after that.
But by 2011 his small intestine was dead.
"I had a blood clot in my pectorial artery that was killing my small intestine," Kevin says.
His doctors in Alabama did what was necessary.
"So they had removed everything but a hundred centimeters of my small intestine and gave me something called short bowel syndrome."
Kevin could no longer eat. He survived on artificial nutrition fed through a tube. But no one can survive for long on that either. Time was running out.
"They develop mental delay, they develop autism they develop atrophy of their brain they develop clots in their central nervous system even if you give them organs and you replace diseased organs in the abdomen it's impossible to reverse disease in the brain," says Cleveland Clinic transplant specialist, Dr. Kareem Abu-Elmagd.
"My quality of life was terrible I was really strapped to the bed I had to have constant monitoring," Kevin remembers.
That's when his wife, Amy, went on the internet and started researching solutions. She found Cleveland Clinic performed intestinal transplants. An organ transplant that many are still not aware can be done.
When they moved to Cleveland Hts. in January Kevin was still very sick. Dr. Abu-Elmagd had to get him well to even consider him for transplant surgery.
"He was amazed that I was even alive because of the amount of infections I had in the abcesses," Kevin remembers.
He became well enough to attend his daughter's wedding in May and then in July he received the call that a donor intestine was available.
After two years of not being able to eat real food he was amazed at how delicious mashed potatoes and gravy were.
Eleven days after surgery Kevin left the hospital to recover in his tiny apartment in Cleveland Hts.
Before all this, Amy never gave a second thought to organ donation. She has a whole new appreciation for it 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," Amy says.
Kevin is grateful to the donor and his family.
"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 says.