Island musician whose hospital duet went viral making big strides after transplant

Updated: Oct. 29, 2020 at 4:52 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii musician Sean Tiwanak knows how close he came to a curtain call. His heart was on its last legs.

“My heart was basically going into heart failure for the last 15 years,” he said.

Early this year it was determined he needed a heart transplant. In the middle of the pandemic, the Queen’s Medical Center was his lifesaver.

“I didn’t want to go in because I was afraid of COVID,” he said. “But they had everything organized in such a way that you don’t have to worry about it.”

Hawaiian musician sings in hospital

WATCH: A viral video shows Hawaii recording artist Sean Tiwanak singing to frontline workers before a heart transplant. #HINews #HNN

Posted by Hawaii News Now on Monday, August 10, 2020

Tiwanak, 53, was in good hands. The American Heart Association just awarded Queen’s its Heart Failure Gold Quality Achievement Award.

“We wanted to build the best heart failure program we could and one that is on par with any other program in the country,” said. Dr. Dipanjan Banerjee, director of Queen’s Advanced Heart Failure Program.

Queen’s arranged for Tiwanak to go to Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles for the transplant.

That’s where his impromptu duet with a doctor was taped and became a social media sensation. And the hits continue to keep coming.

“I’ve seen sites with 16 million, 20 million. At this point we just lost track,” Tiwanak said.

He’s not ready to name names but the duo has been invited to appear on a big network talk show. As for his heart health, he’s feeling great.

“I still have a ways to go in my recovery but so far it’s been an amazing transformation. Miraculous,” he said.

Before the transplant he couldn’t make it down the street. Now he walks a mile a day. He wants to meet the organ donor’s family.

“Every breath and every heartbeat that I have is because of this person,” he said.

Tiwanak said his background as a respiratory therapist and in pharmaceutical sales helped him deal with his health challenges. He hopes heart transplant patients will eventually be able to receive the life-saving procedure in Hawaii.

Banerjee said Queen’s is planning for that.

“We are hoping to provide those services here in Hawaii in the near future, first the heart pumps and then eventually heart transplants,” he said.

Tiwanak will stay on the mainland through April for followup care.

“There’s so many barriers to getting a transplant. It’s very difficult. So I thank the team at Queen’s and HMSA. They really worked hard to get me here. Without their help there’s no way I’d be here today,” he said.

Tiwanak has a GoFundMe page to help with his increasing expenses. He’s anxious to come home with a new heart and a new outlook on life.

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