Hollywood exec's mysterious illness that led to a hand transplant

Jonathan Koch suddenly became gravely ill, but determined to fight, he pulled through and built up his strength to undergo a remarkable surgery.
10:18 | 09/05/17

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Transcript for Hollywood exec's mysterious illness that led to a hand transplant
disturbing but it is this grim reality on the verge of death that makes his battle back so triumphant. For Jonathan cox little moments like this are now within reach. There's nothing more independent then being able to drive around by yourself. For the first time in two and half years this father is behind the wheel of his own scar on the open road. I felt the breeze before but right now it feels electrified. It's himming on T it's himming on T . Your hand is humming on the inside. Two years ago his hand looked like this. The successful Hollywood executive defied odds after a odyssey left him narrowing escaping death. His girlfriend was at his side documenting her raw emotions. It's been so hard so far. And watching his determination to heal. Back then he was a 49-year-old entertainment executive at the top of his game, hanging with jewel, publicizing her movie "Ring of fire" and in "The kennedys". Today's a big day your daddy's going to become president. He was on his way to a television conference in D.C. When he felts like he was hit by a truck. I said get me out of here somehow. Because you were going to power through. It was a very important trip for my team and had been preparing a long time. I needed to be there. He drove himself to er before getting morphine before dragging himself across the country. Within 24 hours was fighting for his life in icu in George Washington hospital, unthinkable for a man who never drank or smoked and exercising like a fiend. Now doctors telling him to call everyone he loves telling him he only has moments to live. When they told me I had a small chance of living that moment I decided not to call my daughter was the moment I decided I just can't die. I can't do it. She shouldn't grow up without her daddy. Doctors had no idea what was killing him but feared his body was falling into septic shock so he was sedated into a medically induced coma. Wish I could have talked to him. Wish I would have got here sooner. Jennifer rushing to his bedside. They're testing for everything, everything's come back negative. His odds of surviving just 10%. Was described as multiple organ failure, his lungs, his heart, kidneys, he had to have dialysis, everything was shutting down. Doctors later diagnosed him with he hlh a rare and aggressive immune disorder none of his doctors had confronted. Jennifer had been entrusted to make life or death decisions for the devoted father who would never miss father-daughter dance. I kept thinking about his daughter, like, she can't be without her dad. So I was thinking every moment, every decision I made was like, this little girl. But essentially you held his life in your hands. I know. And that was a really scary thing for me. During his coma hovering between life and death he experienced powerful nightmares one presented him with a critical choice. A very deep and distinct male voice, don't know if it was my own consciousness, a doctor by my bedside, if it was god, I really don't me to this day and it said if you do decide you're going to live it's going to be the most vicious, painful, all fight, every day for the rest of your life. And you were up for the fight. Yeah when he put it that way I was like that I get. So I, you know, said, yes. The instinct to fight. Something instilled in him as a young boy. Can't believe it! Mesmerized by the tenacious boxer in the movie "Rocky". My dad took me to the drive-in movie when I was 11 years old and we saw rocky and from that moment forward I just knew what was inside me was way more than I thought before that day. You took it as gospel. It is gospel. First of all he didn't win. Proclamationy didn't win. People didn't think about that. It's about doing the work. It's about putting everything you have into it. If you literally do your best at everything, that's really all you can do. After his near-death experience he woke a new-found appreciation for what was important in his life. Do you have a conscious memory of seeing Jennifer first time you came out of the coma. I wanted to mar marry her. After two and half weeks body shut off oxygen to preserve his organs, his hands and feet were starting to die. Gang green setting in. What's the pain feel like in your hands. It feels like someone's holding a bic lighter under my finger tips all day. Doctors want to am pu ate but Jennifer interviewed. I said absolutely not. She began search forge other options and stumbled on possibility of hand trans plant and turns out UCLA has a world renown hand surgeon, who was skouring the world for his next patient. I was looking for someone who was motivated, that was healthy and had not had his amputations done. Because of her critical decision he became the perfect candidate. Why go through all of the surge zbli when you have transplantation they will put you through psychiatric exercises and one question was why do you want another hand. I thought, well, you have two. I think the world is built for two, and I can handle it. The doctor and his team began the process by first amputating his left hand preserving blood vessels for the blood transplant but the doctor told him to get stronger and healthier. He was also gauging something zble. What did you size up about his mental tough ngs. That is what got me to full in love with his personality. He's an eternal optimist like I've never seen before. But he faced a grim reality that his right leg could not be saved. That was a painful moment, she was crying with me, the real get it out cry, the admission that we lost that battle was tough for both of us. He may have been missing a hand all of his fingers and toes but just like his hero in "Roc "Rocky" he kept fighting to qualify for that transplant. The first milestone, learning to walk with his new prosthetic. What was it like as he took the first steps. Don't let him fall. Jennifer was crying. I could see Scott behind me with this big smile on his face. It was a heart-warming, chilling, almost incomprehensivable. Finally Jonathan was ready for that hand transplant but along the way wanted to make good on one particular promise. What was your wedding day like. It was really sweet, really non-event, the way we wanted it to be, like a second ceremony, it was joyous and happy. We didn't want anything to change. Their honey moon period involved waiting for the ideal donor. You immediate to match for size, color, hair pattern. It took seven months to get the call. How are you feeling about your hand transplant surge zbli very peaceful. And hopeful that everything goes well. And then the complex surgery, 24 tendons, countless nerve endings, veins and arteries, microscopicallytitched together. So many structures need to be repaired. Nerves are like coaxial cables without color connections, you have to figure out how they fit together, so the parts for sensation match up and the parts of the nerve for motor function match up. Initial fears are that the vessels are going to clot and blood is not going to move through the hand. There's no margin for error. No margin for error. Even if the surgery is a success will he be able to control his new hand or touch or feel again, when we come back.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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