TLC reality show My 600-lb Life profiles the efforts of the obese to lose weight, but viewers were given heartbreaking news in this week’s episode: Robert Buchel, a New Jersey man who weighed 842 pounds at the start of the episode, did not survive filming.
The 41-year-old, who went on a strict diet for months and lost more than 200 pounds before surgery to lose more weight, died suddenly of a heart attack on Nov. 15 last year, People reports.
Buchel, who moved from New Jersey to Texas with fiancee Kathryn Lemanski for the treatment, was addicted to painkillers and he became depressed after the surgery, at one point tearing out his stitches in a bid to be given more drugs, the New York Daily News reports.
“Robert battled an addiction and lost but he never gave up,” said his surgeon, Dr. Younan Nowzaraden. Buchel is the first person to have died during filming for the TLC show, which is now in its sixth season.
In a Facebook post, Lemanski called the death a “robbery beyond words,” saying that after a hard life, Buchel had finally started having hope for the future. “The night before he passed he told me ‘If I don’t wake up tomorrow please know that I have always loved you,'” she said.
TLC was “deeply saddened” by the death and is “grateful to his family who were gracious enough to let us continue to share his brave story with our viewers,” the network said in a statement to FOX.