Robert Buchel, an 842-lb. man who had hoped to undergo life-saving weight loss surgery with the help of TLC’s My 600-Lb. Life, has died of a heart attack at the age of 41.
Buchel, 41, was the subject of Wednesday night’s episode of the reality show, and had successfully lost nearly 200 lbs. after moving with his fiancé, Kathryn Lemanski, from New Jersey to Houston. But his addiction to painkillers derailed surgeon Dr. Younan Nowzaradan’s efforts to help, and Buchel passed away on Nov. 15, 2017.
In a statement to PEOPLE, TLC said they were “deeply saddened” by his loss.
They added: “We are grateful to his family who were gracious enough to let us continue to share his brave story with our viewers. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this difficult time.”
“Rob suffered from never realizing how good a man he was and always felt inadequate and a failure,” she wrote two days after his death. “Thank you to all of you for validating my love for him. I knew what kind of soul he had but could never convince him of how truly special he was. A person like him should never have to die this way and certainly not this young and most definitely not when his life was about to begin.”
Lemanski added that Buchel was becoming optimistic for his future after losing weight in the hospital.
“Rob had a hard life, and in the last two months he finally had hope for the life he always wanted,” she said.
A friend of Lemanski’s created a GoFundMe page to raise money for Buchel’s medical bills and funeral costs, and to help her move back to New Jersey.
“Kathryn incurred a crushing debt, between medical bills and moving expenses, only to have to pack up, turn around and move back,” they wrote. “Kathryn is one of the most selfless and giving individuals one could ever meet, she is well deserving of any help that can be offered.”