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Duke Doctors Perform North Carolina's First Successful Abdominal Transplant

Erin Hull
Duke Health

A 25-person team of doctors, nurses and staff at Duke University Hospital performed the state's first successful abdominal wall and bowel transplant this week.

Fayetteville man Johnathan Nauta, a former Army drill sergeant leader, received a new abdominal wall, bowel and bellybutton from a 13-year-old donor. 

The 14-hour transplant took place Tuesday. Most of the cost - "hundreds of thousands of dollars" - was covered by his military insurance and Medicaid, according to a report by the News & Observer

Due to a burst appendix at age 6, Nauta was left with multiple intestinal blockages from scar tissue throughout his life. He eventually developed an inability to eat and lived with tubes and waste bags before almost dying due to an infection last year.

Prior to his surgery at Duke, it was recommended that he look into hospice care.

Nauta, with his new abdominal wall and his first bellybutton since he was 11, is now fully functional. He is able to eat unassisted and is expected to be discharged soon.

Dr. Debra Sudan, chief of abdominal transplant surgery at Duke Health, said that this won't be the last abdominal transplant done by the hospital and that Duke is already in the beginning stages of evaluating another patient.