HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — A Bay area man credits his doctors and a new and highly unusual-sounding procedure with saving his life after he contracted an infection following a routine procedure.

  • Douglas Lee fought C-Diff infection following wisdom teeth extraction
  • C-Diff occurs when antiobiotics wipe out healthy bacteria in the colon
  • Fecal transplant succeeded where other medications failed
  • More Health stories

When Douglas Lee had his wisdom teeth extracted a few years ago, he never expected that the antibiotic that was supposed to help him heal would actually make him suffer.

"I was so sick my whole life changed," Lee told us. "I couldn't work a full week. I was weak all the time. I thought I was going to die"

The antibiotic left Lee vulnerable to developing an infection known as C-Diff. Doctors told us C-Diff occurs when antibiotics wipe out healthy bacteria in the colon.

"Many of these patients are in the hospital," said gastroenterologist Dr. Michael Small of the Bay Care Medical Group. "Lot of abdominal pain, you can get a fever, you can get sepsis."

Small said Lee tried medication after medication, but nothing worked. Finally, Small suggested a fairly new and rather bizarre procedure — a fecal transplant.

"I said, 'Nope, I don't need to think about it,'" Lee said. "When? How soon? Let's do it now."

(Courtesy of Bay Care)

How does it work?

The procedure involves obtaining healthy stool samples from an independent, nonprofit donor bank. The samples are tested, purified, frozen, and shipped.

After the sample is transferred to the patient, Small said the trillions of healthy bacteria take hold of the colon and fight off infection.

"I couldn't believe it and I tell my friends about it, and they're like, 'you're talking about this?'" Lee explained. "And I say, 'it saved my life, yes, I'll tell anyone and everyone about it, I don't care.'"

Lee said he started feeling better within days of the transplant. Gastroenterologists say they have seen an 80 to 90 percent success rate with the procedure.