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Duke Performs North Carolina’s First Abdominal Wall Transplant

March 22, 2019
Jonathan Nauta shows his abdominal transplant

Johnathan Nauta, 37, had suffered with intestinal obstructions for most of his life. After more than 20 surgeries failed to fix the problem, he had run out of options. Today, thanks to an abdominal wall and intestine transplant, Nauta is getting back to normal life at home with his wife and kids.

A Bleak Prognosis

When Fayetteville resident Jonathan Nauta was hospitalized in 2014 for an intestinal blockage and organ failure, his local hospital recommended that the family consider hospice. Nauta’s previous surgeries had damaged his abdominal wall to the point that additional surgeries were impossible.

But a Duke team -- including division chief for abdominal transplant surgery Debra Sudan, MD; plastic surgeon Detlev Erdmann, MD; and transplant surgeon Kadiyala Ravindra, MBBS -- offered hope. Duke was one of a few sites nationwide permitted to and capable of performing a rare surgery that could save Nauta’s life. 

Truly Grateful

In October 2018, Nauta simultaneously underwent an abdominal wall and intestine transplant. The surgical team even pioneered a new approach that reduced interference between the surgeons responsible for each of the two transplants.

A month after his surgery, Nauta was able to meet and thank the family of his organ donor --  13-year-old Marcus Scales. 

“When making the choice for organ donation, it was not hard for us to say yes,” said Marcus’ mother Sherry Scales. “We needed something good to come out of our bad situation. Doing this gave us the chance to keep parts of him alive in other people and, at the same time, give other people the gift of life.”

At a press conference, Nauta thanked the Scales family and the Duke surgical team for saving his life. 

“It’s just mind blowing to me. I would have never thought this was possible,” Nauta said.