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Patient in Indiana's first intestinal transplant comes back to thank doctors

David Peck was back at Riley Hospital for Children, thanking doctors who performed a landmark surgery when he was just 2 years old.

INDIANAPOLIS — Twenty years ago, a 2-year-old boy became the first intestinal transplant patient at Riley Hospital for Children. 

Friday, David Peck and his mother came back to IU Health, celebrating 20 years since the landmark surgery. 

In 2003, a young David was very sick.

"They took him to surgery. All of his small bowel and a third of his large was dead and full of gangrene," said Tracy, Peck's mother. "At first, they said there was nothing they could do and he would not survive for the next 48 hours. So, you're told your baby is going to die."

But as fate would have it, IU Health was creating a program for intestine transplants. David would become the first recipient.

After the surgery, David got food directly into his stomach through an IV. Another tube took the waste away.

"He knows he has all these tubes. He has doctors, and he knows what not to touch and what's OK to do," Traci Peck told 13News 20 years ago.

David grew up without any complications.

"I wrestled in high school four years. So, I did all that. I was just like a normal kid. I lived a normal life. The only difference is I take medication," David said.

"I joke that he's the healthiest one out of all of us," Traci said.

"It's unbelievable to look at him and see what a man he's become," surgeon Dr. Jonathon Fridell said.

Friday's reunion was also a celebration for the IU Health transplant team, which has now done 300 intestinal transplants.

"The intestine has its own innate immune system, so it's very difficult to transplant. You're not just transplanting an organ — you're transplanting a separate immune system," Dr. Richard Mangus said.

Everyone at Friday's reunion recognizes the importance of organ donation and the families who have made that life-giving decision.

"I, as a mother, always acknowledge that there's a family out there that's missing those milestones, so I always remember our donor family," Traci said.

"It's definitely something that I talk about a lot because I advocate a lot for organ donation. Having people be organ donors is a great thing. So, I always try to tell people my story as much as possible," David said.

Next month, David turns 23 years old. He's happy and health, thanks to the transplant team at IU Health.

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