Hollywood exec's road to recovery after hand transplant: Part 2

Jonathan Koch underwent an 18-hour surgery and emerged with a new left hand, but had to learn to rebuild himself.
5:58 | 05/19/17

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Transcript for Hollywood exec's road to recovery after hand transplant: Part 2
Jonathan Koch was a Hollywood heavyweight who barely escaped death. Having lost his leg, about to lose a hand, he turned to a pioneering procedure, a human hand transplant. Could his dreams once again be within reach? After a marathon 17-hour surgery, Jonathan Koch emerging with a new left hand. It's Jennifer's birthday when I got out of surgery. And she said, I just want one thing. I just want you to move one of your fingers. And I didn't think there was any chance I could. But I thought about it. And it moved. That's amazing. For the rest of the day, any time anybody came into the room, doctor, nurses, friends, family, he's go, haaay! As soon as we walked into Jonathan's room he gives me the thumbs-up like the fonz used to do. Right? This guy, he's absolutely perfect. Reporter: Dr. Azari also thought the surgery was perfect. The team of 24 nurses and doctors from competing hospitals successfully attaching the donor hand to Jonathan's. Doc, will I be able to play the peon know after surgery? Reporter: The recovery was far more treacherous than he'd anticipated. What was the toughest part for you of the transplant? I woke up, my mind wasn't right. I wasn't breathing as well as everybody wanted me to. I was telling Jennifer, I'm drifting away. I can't seem to get back, I can't get back into my life, in control of what's happening with me. It sounds like that's the first time self-doubt crept into your mind. Yeah. All the work that I had done since getting home, working out in my wheelchair, trying to crawl up and down the stairs on my elbows and knees -- all those things I did to rebuild myself, they came right back into play. Having to try to make sense of the hand transplant. Reporter: But ever the fighter, Jonathan soldiered on. One weekend he's gripping a tennis ball and throwing it. Next thing you know, he picks up a glass of water and he takes a drink and he goes, aah! You feel fierce and powerful. You just do. So when I grabbed that bottle and I was able to hold it, even though it was pretty shaky, I feel fierce and powerful, this is an incredible feeling. Reporter: Movement by movement, grip by grip. Soon thrilling milestones left him giddy. Jonathan has met or in the vast majority of cases exceeded all of my expectations. I told him, Jonathan, it's going to take you maybe a year and a half to two years before you can tie your shoelaces. At two months he sends me a video of him tying his shoelaces. Reporter: The total cost? Estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Covered not by insurance but by UCLA in the name of research, which could end up helping so many others. This feels good. I bet it does. It does. Reporter: Now within reach, moments like learning to drive again. All right, here we go. Whoa. We're out of here. On the open road. Yeah. It really did liberate him. Now he has the confidence and is ready to drive again. Couldn't tie his shoe before, now he can do that. He couldn't button things before. It just helps, you know, with hygiene, taking care of himself in that way. Was it worth it? All the pain, the rehab, the everything for the transplant? It was 100% worth it. I'd do it again. I would tell anybody to do it. You can't imagine the change in my life as I regain my Independence. Reporter: He's just now begun to regain a sense of temperature, differentiating between hot and cold. And even bigger triumphs. It was his dream to play tennis again with his daughter Ariana. Variety, swinging a racket with his newly acquired left hand. What does tennis represent to you? I just love the competition. There's nothing more than I like to do than to go play as hard as I can and as well as I can and when it's over with, no matter what happens, you know, it's been an incredible experience. And once in a while you catch lightning in a bottle in a tennis match. Oh, there you go. And it's everything you have. And I love that. How good have you gotten with your new hand? I'm not great. You know, I'm learning to -- You're saying I have a chance? You definitely have a chance. Left-handed, it hasn't been going great. I throw my racket sometimes accidentally because I'm still working on that. I do too. Repetition. Oh, I thought I was out of here. Thanks, juju. Good play. Any other things you've been working on? Reporter: Now the man many described as a hard-channeling workaholic, a man whose life was roadmaped by a Hollywood movie, looking for other stories. It's great, we should crack some of those. Reporter: Including his own, to inspire others. Good to see you, always. Good to see you, thank you. If your life story or this last chapter were in a pitch meeting to you what kind of story is it? A triumph over adversity story? A love story? You can name it all. It's a triumph of the human story spirit. Not just my standpoint but our standpoint and all my friends who rallied so hard. Just the amount of love and prayers and all those things that were coming to me that I could actually feel them. I felt lifted up by them. I know how many people were caring about me. Seven, eight, nine -- My girl's fierce. Reporter: The next chapter of this story now left in Jonathan's capable hand. Five, six, seven, eight, nine -- beauty.

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