One of the subjects of the TLC reality television show My 600-Lb. Life has died while filming an episode that aired Wednesday.
Robert Buchel was 41 years old when he suffered a fatal heart attack in November.
The New Jersey native struggled with compulsive eating and food addiction for most of his life, ultimately hitting 842 pounds and suffering from lymphedema, or swelling in the legs, as a result.
His struggles were chronicled on TLC’s My 600-Lb. Life, which showed the challenges Buchel and his mother and fiancée endured as a result of his weight.
“I hate that this is our life and that this is Rob’s life but nothing stops him from eating,” his fiancée, Kathryn Lemanski, said on Wednesday’s episode. “Food is killing him and taking our future.”
Buchel had said that his issues with food started at 6 years old when his parents opened a fried chicken store.
They were exacerbated three years later when he was molested by a neighbor, he said.
By his teens, Buchel said he weighed about 225 pounds.
When he was 19, his older brother died of a heart attack.
Buchel became depressed, his overeating worsened and his weight hit 600 pounds before ultimately reaching 842 pounds.
But he was ready for a change and in an effort to improve his condition, he and Lemanski moved to Texas to get him treatment.
Buchel quickly shed 217 pounds, weight loss that was necessary before he could have lymphedema removal surgery.
However, he grew depressed after his surgery and progress stalled as he struggled with a painkiller addiction. Buchel was then moved to a long-term care facility when authorities realized he was not actively trying to improve his health.
In his final words on screen, Buchel said he wanted to get better for Lemanski.
She appeared on screen to share the news of Buchel’s passing.
“He told me, ‘I don’t think I’ll make it through the night. I love you and I always will,'” she said. “I lost my best friend and the person I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with.”
Buchel was the first person featured on the show to die during filming.
“TLC was deeply saddened by the loss of Robert,” the network said in a statement. “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.”
Loved ones gathered to remember Buchel at a memorial in New Jersey on Dec. 9, 2017.
A GoFundMe page was created in support of Lemanski, whose friends said has amassed a crippling amount of debt in caring for her fiancé.
“[Lemanski] recently lost her fiancé, Rob Buchel, after leaving her whole life, family, friends, and jobs, behind in order to move to another state to help him overcome a lifelong health struggle,” the page noted. “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.”