New intestine, new chance to live his life

Tony Finch can’t say enough about the transplant team at IU Health. Years of searching for answers resulted in a second chance at life.

There’s a paper calendar that Lisa Finch thumbs through looking at dates that correlate with her husband’s hospitalization. After a couple of minutes of looking over the highlighted sections of each month, she just says: “He was in and out of the hospital a lot.”

Chronic diarrhea resulted in Tony Finch becoming dehydrated and malnourished. Practitioners could tell he was losing ground when his weight dropped from 180 pounds to 119 pounds. After several months of testing and trying various medicines, Finch was diagnosed with Collagenous enteritis. The rare disorder generally associated with adults over the age of 45, is a type of inflammation – a collagen under the lining of the colon. In some cases medications improve the condition. For Finch, there was no relief. With the help of IU Health dietitian Tracy Burch last year he began Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN), intravenous IV nutrition to begin building his strength. On Nov. 8, 2018 he was listed for a small bowel transplant.

A native of Russiaville, Ind. Finch was raised in the country – the youngest of three boys. “I played in the creek a lot and in the woods,” said Finch, 56. He met his wife Lisa at a local arcade when she was 16 and he was 19. That was 37 years ago and this December marks their 34th
wedding anniversary.

She’s been with him throughout his illness. It’s not his first extended stay at IU Health.

The couple hadn’t been together very long when Finch had a car wreck and suffered severe spinal cord injuries. He was paralyzed on his right side from the waist down.

“I often wonder how the same person can experience such awful things twice in their life. That time was different – much harder. We had two young daughters ages three and seven months,” said Lisa Finch. He spent two months in IU Health Methodist Hospital and months after that in rehabilitation.

This time, Finch feels like he’s got another chance. Under the care of Dr. Richard Mangus, he received an intestinal transplant on July 7th
and he says he feels great and is ready to get out and make up for missed time – especially spending time with his family. His daughters are now married and he’s a grandfather to five.

“He’s spent so much time in the hospital or not feeling well that he’s missed a lot of holidays and special occasions,” said Lisa Finch. “I can’t say enough about Dr. Mangus and the transplant team here. They’ve all been great. The nurses even got me a cake and decorated my room for my birthday on August. 4th,” said Tony Finch. “But I’m missing my grandchildren – I haven’t even met the fifth one who was just born recently. I’m ready to go home.”

— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
Reach Banes via email