Hollywood executive’s mysterious, almost fatal, illness led to a life-changing hand transplant

Jonathan Koch was at the top of his game as a successful Hollywood entertainment executive when suddenly his life came to a screeching halt. He became gravely ill and his body was quickly shutting down, but doctors couldn’t figure out why.

But Koch has defied unthinkable odds over a two-year medical odyssey — one in which he narrowly escaped death and gave him a new left hand in a remarkable feat of science.

Koch produced dozens of projects, including the movie “Ring of Fire” that he worked on with singer-songwriter Jewel and TV series such as “The Kennedys.” In 2015, Koch was traveling from Los Angeles to a reality television conference in Washington, D.C., when he was suddenly hit with symptoms that seemed like the flu, but decided to power through.

“I felt like I had been hit by a truck,” Koch told ABC News “Nightline.” “[The conference] was a very important trip for my team and they had been preparing for a long time… I needed to be there.”

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Executive Producer Jonathan Koch speaks onstage during “The Capones” panel discussion at the REELZCHANNEL portion of the 2013 Summer Television Critics Association tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, July 28, 2013 in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Koch drove to the emergency room and said doctors there gave him a shot of morphine before he dragged himself onto the cross-country flight. He made it to D.C., but within 24 hours, he was in the Intensive Care Unit at George Washington University Hospital, his body was in septic shock and doctors had no idea what was killing him.

The man who treated his body like a temple — he never drank or smoked and was an exercise fanatic — was now being told he had hours to live.

He said doctors even urged him to text loved ones, so he texted Jennifer Gunkel, then his girlfriend of seven years, but couldn’t bring himself to text his 15-year-old daughter, Ariana.

“I made a very conscious decision with the last moment of…

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