WESTON, Florida. – It’s clear that being overweight or obese increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, but losing weight is the hardest part for many.
Joe Guzman, 32, has always been heavy his whole life, eventually reaching 300 pounds, a weight that took a toll on his heart.
“There was a lot of chest pain, little knocks, I was walking and I felt a stab or something,” Guzman said.
The damage was so severe that he eventually suffered heart failure, but since Guzman was morbidly obese, he could not be registered for a heart transplant.
Conversely, the condition of his heart made bariatric surgery extremely risky.
“At that time it wasn’t something I could take for granted, it was a matter of life and death. If I didn’t lose weight, I wouldn’t have the transplant,” Guzman said.
“Telling a patient to lose 50 pounds is like telling me to grow five inches taller, he’s not going to lose weight, he’ll never have a heart and sadly he’ll die of heart failure,” he said. Dr. Raul Rosenthal, bariatric surgeon at Cleveland Clinic Weston.
Rosenthal came up with an innovative approach: supporting Guzman’s heart with an artificial pump during the procedure.
“And for the first time in the history of cardio-thoracic and bariatric surgery, we have implemented the combination of bariatric surgery as a step-by-step approach so that the patient can lose weight, all medical issues declined or went into remission, he became a good candidate to receive a donor heart and a better candidate to undergo a heart transplant,” Rosenthal said.
Following heart-assisted bariatric surgery, Guzman quickly lost 100 pounds and qualified for a heart transplant after a long and difficult journey.
Four months later, he received that life-saving match after a long and difficult journey.
“I have the impression that everything is happening, as it happened, I think of everything.”
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