Maryland restaurateur undergoes multi-organ transplant at UChicago Medicine

Transplant patient John Tony Foreman and Rolf Barth MD
Kidney transplant surgeon Rolf Barth, MD, with his patient Tony Foreman after Foreman's successful heart-kidney double-organ transplant at UChicago Medicine.

As founder and co-owner of Baltimore's premier restaurant company, Foreman Wolf, Tony Foreman has always brought a lot to the table.  

“Resilience, relentlessness, and optimism. Those are the keys to my success,” Foreman said. 

Those qualities were tested when Foreman was met with a massive physical challenge: undergoing a double-organ transplant to save his life. 

Foreman has been defying expectations since birth. He was a very small baby born with heart issues, unlikely to survive by all accounts. But he survived and thrived, running track, playing football, and developing a tenacious work ethic that would one day lend itself to his success as one of Maryland’s foremost restauranteurs. 

Since 2003, Foreman has undergone multiple cardiac surgeries at some of the country’s top hospitals, including valve replacements and a pacemaker, all while maintaining an active lifestyle and being highly involved in the day-to-day operations of his businesses. His heart issues eventually caused his kidneys to fail. 

Foreman was already a high-risk patient for a heart transplant due to his surgical history, but needing a double-organ transplant elevated that risk even further. 

Still, Foreman was surprised at the response he received. “I was evaluated at one of the best hospitals in the country, and they said no,” he said.  

In the same conversation, that hospital’s transplant chief gave him life-changing advice: “Go to the University of Chicago Medicine.” 

Foreman took the advice and sought care from the UChicago Medicine Transplant Institute, which consistently ranks top in the nation for patient outcomes and short wait times. 

Rolf Barth, MD, co-director of the Transplant Institute, is an expert surgeon specializing in kidney, liver, and pancreas transplantation at UChicago Medicine. He was part of the team who evaluated Foreman and performed his kidney transplant. Valluvan Jeevanandam, MD, director of the UChicago Medicine Heart and Vascular Center, led the heart transplant surgical team.  

“When we looked through Tony’s case and all of the complicating factors, it was well within our wheelhouse,” Barth stated. “Our program does these transplants more frequently than other centers and in more complicated cases, too.” 

Barth explained that patients come to UChicago Medicine from all over the U.S. and around the world to get access to these types of multi-organ transplants because of the way the transplant teams work together seamlessly and regularly. UChicago Medicine physicians also made history in 2018 for performing the world’s first back-to-back triple-organ transplants.  

“We are always doing these relays and running together,” Barth said. “It’s not just our team interacting once a year with another team. We talk about these patients frequently; we operate together frequently. It allows us to do far more than we would ever be able to do in settings where we didn’t have those types of personal and clinical relationships.” 

Once Foreman was approved for the procedures, he relocated temporarily to Chicago and went on the waitlist for a heart and kidney. In May 2023, he matched with a donor, and underwent a successful 17-hour transplant surgery. 

“Tony did very well,” Barth said. “He sailed through the transplant and became a poster child for how well a patient with complex medical issues can do when approached with our team’s level of care.” 

The post-operation recovery was much more challenging than Foreman expected, especially given his athletic ability. 

“The hardest thing was learning how to stand up again. I had to relearn how to swallow. Things I had taken for granted before,” Foreman said. It also took six weeks for his body to release the 50 pounds of fluid he had retained due to kidney failure.  

More than six months post-double transplant, Foreman has been able to get back to a rigorous exercise routine, including 55-65 miles per week of walking and intervals, yoga, and functional strength training. 

“I feel good,” Foreman said. “I had always trained my body to carry my heart around. Now I have a heart and kidneys that work.” 

Throughout the transplant process, Foreman was impressed by the team at UChicago Medicine. 

“It was a visceral level of care, a consistent level of care,” Foreman said. “They’re not just good at their work or immersed in the science of it all. They are really great humans.” 

Rolf Barth

Rolf Barth, MD

Dr. Barth performed the first scarless single-port laparoscopic donor nephrectomies (kidney removal), and has gone on to successfully complete this procedure over 500 times.

See Dr. Barth's physician profile
Valluvan Jeevanandam, MD

Valluvan Jeevanandam, MD

Dr. Valluvan Jeevanandam specializes in the surgical management of heart failure, and is an expert in high-risk cardiac surgery. He has performed more than 1,000 heart transplants — including the total artificial heart — and countless cardiac surgery procedures.

Learn more about Dr. Jeevanandam