Santiago Carmona proudly displayed the foot-long scar on his chest and said he hadn’t felt this good in 20 years.
“Got a heart transplant last week. He’d been sick for a long time,” said his transplant surgeon, Dr. Si Pham.
“I’m a specialist of broken hearts, and he’s one of them,” said his cardiologist, Dr. Javier Jimenez.
In a news conference Tuesday, Carmona was sandwiched between the two University of Miami doctors at Jackson Memorial Hospital who helped save his life.
“I’m just blessed that somebody gave up their heart to give me life,” Carmona said.
When doctors discussed putting him on the waiting list for a new heart, Carmona weighed 332 pounds. Morbidly obese patients are not considered candidates for transplantation because of the increased risk of complications.
“To be able to get the transplant he had to lose 100 pounds and he was able to do that by himself,“ Pham said.
Carmona was too weak to exercise so he only ate 800 calories a day. He lost 152 pounds. At Jackson Memorial, 5 percent of heart transplant patients first undergo weight loss surgery.
His heart condition forced him to give up his musical career as a professional saxophone player.
“I’d finish playing and four hours later I’d still be out of breath. My heart would beat really fast, so I wouldn’t get pleasure out of playing anymore,” Carmona said.
Now he’s looking forward to picking up the saxophone again and teaching his 8-year-old son how to play.
“He promised me that he would write a song for us in the future and I hope he does that,” Jimenez said.