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Published: Sunday, 7/31/2005

Patient looks forward to tube-free mealtime

Six months after a liver and intestine transplant, a 10-year-old Maumee boy expects to return home this week tube-free and armed with an appetite.

A.J. Nye has spent the last three weeks recovering from what his family hopes is his last major surgery to overcome a rare condition in which his intestines developed outside his abdomen.

"He is doing terrific," said his mother, Allison Irons, from the Nebraska Medical Center where he underwent surgery. "As long as everything stays well, it should be the end of his big surgeries."

On July 7, doctors at the Omaha hospital removed an ostomy bag and connected his transplanted intestine to his colon, allowing his bowels to work.

A.J. has been in and out of hospitals since his birth, undergoing an intestine transplant before turning 3.

Starting four years ago, he had to be fed intravenously from a bag he carried in a backpack. His liver began to deteriorate, leaving his skin tinged yellow.

In January, he had an intestine and liver transplant, and was able to begin eating again. He can now rattle off a host of foods he likes, from bacon to sugar-free Jell-O.

"It's so good. I can have food anytime I want," A.J. said yesterday. "I can also feel the feeling of actually being full."

Awaiting a final check-up slated for Thursday at the Nebraska hospital, A.J. and his mother took part yesterday in the hospital's annual transplant reunion, and said they expect to leave Friday for Maumee.

They've raised about $70,000 of their $80,000 goal to offset medical bills, and thanked donors for their efforts.

"We are just really grateful," Ms. Irons said.

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