Rockford man is taken off the heart transplant list

Published: Oct. 13, 2020 at 3:42 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - A Rockford man’s name is removed from the heart transplant list and he is headed towards a healthier lifestyle.

“I didn’t even know if I would be alive the following year, I was in bad shape,” said Tom Satterlee, UW Health patient.

Satterlee started his journey to better health in 2012 when his heart wasn’t pumping blood normally. So doctors implanted a left ventricular assist device or LVAD in his chest. Satterlee then focused on losing weight.

“I weighed in at 436 pounds and I had a size 56 waist, and I’m telling you I was very large,” Satterlee said.

Satterlee says he started his weight-loss journey strong but then plateaued.

“I had done the paleo I had done Nutrisystem and you know what, none of them worked,” Satterlee said.

So in December of 2017, he chose to undergo a sleeve gastrectomy led by U WHealth Bariatric Surgeon Dr. Michael Garren.

“He had a major hurdle in front of him and that was he couldn’t be listed for a heart transplant because he struggled with obesity,” Garren said.

The surgery allowed him to lose more than 200 pounds.

" We helped him get through that and there are just no words," Garren said.

All was good until about two months ago when his LVAD clotted. But while in surgery to replace it a miracle happened.

“They went to unplug the pump and my heart started working on its own,” Satterlee said.

“In Tom’s case the surgery took probably about an hour and ten minutes yet with that rather limited intervention we can change people’s lives for the better,” Garren said.

Only about 2% of patients can have an LVAD removed without a heart transplant.

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