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Feeling Hopeful for a Healthier Future After Bariatric Surgery

He has lost 266 pounds. His BMI has dropped from 75 to 36, making him eligible for the heart transplant needed to correct the genetic congestive heart failure he was diagnosed with at age 28. In fact, the 34-year-old is currently on the transplant list at the Jefferson Transplant Institute.

Since Antwine S. underwent bariatric surgery in October 2019, his incredible weight loss has reduced pressure on his heart, which is supported by a left ventricular assist device that was implanted in January 2019. Before that LVAD procedure, Antwine dealt with serious fatigue, shortness of breath and frequent hospitalizations – including episodes in late 2018 and early 2019 when his defibrillator went off repeatedly. Though his bariatric procedure was originally scheduled for January 2019, his physicians decided to switch the order of the surgeries.

“My heart was giving up, and at that point I was a week away from bariatric surgery,” Antwine says. “My doctors – Dr. Ramsey Dallal for bariatrics and Dr. Alexandra Tuluca for heart – decided to pivot. We did the LVAD implant first.”

After his LVAD and bariatric surgeries, he has been able to get back to doing what he loves while losing weight and awaiting a transplant.

“I have been able to sing again. There was a time I couldn’t even do that. This entire process has taught me to value every moment and appreciate all the people and experiences that life brings,” he says. “I will not let my health problems stop me from achieving the things I want to achieve.”

Bariatric surgery improves many patients’ quality of life and reduces the severity of many medical problems.

“Even the sickest of patients are candidates because everyone deserves a chance,” says Dr. Dallal, Bariatrics Division Chair and leading bariatric surgeon at Einstein Healthcare Network. “We offer the full spectrum of care at Einstein Bariatrics.

Moving Forward with Commitment and Courage

At an early age, Antwine knew he was born to sing. He is a member of several local choirs and has done professional background singing. When he was diagnosed with CHF, he was determined that would not stand in the way of pursuing his dream. He was determined to take action.

CHF is a progressive condition, and in some cases, like Antwine’s, it is genetic. His older brother has CHF, and so do some of his aunts and cousins. In CHF, as fluids build up around the heart, the heart’s ventricles aren’t able to pump blood efficiently to the body’s organs and tissues.

Ten months after getting his LVAD implant, Antwine was well enough to have bariatric surgery, and he has worked hard since to become eligible for a heart transplant. Most transplant centers won’t consider a transplant in patients with a BMI above 37.5. Published data shows increased risks of serious complications with higher BMI transplant recipients, and so, with limited hearts available for transplant, weight is a strict cutoff.

Reflecting about his experiences with two major surgeries, and how far he’s come in the last couple of years, Antwine credits the people at Einstein with helping him regain his health and face the future with courage.

“The doctors, the nurses and everyone I met during my stay – well, to me they are family now,” he says. “As a man of faith, I was particularly impressed by those who took time to pray with me and comfort me. I know I have a long journey ahead, but I’m willing to take that journey one day at a time with a thankful heart.”

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