Patient Stories

Kirk Fortuna: Vegetarian Who Discovered His Smile

Back in 2012, Kirk Fortuna of Revere underwent gastric bypass surgery through North Shore Medical Center’s Weight Management Program and lost over 120 pounds as a result. He has kept the weight off ever since, but all these years later, he is still surprised whenever he does laundry. “I look at the clothes and think, ‘whose are these?’” Kirk says. “Before my surgery, I was a size 44-46. To me, I’m still a fat guy.” That is, until he looks in the mirror.

As with so many other NSMC patients, the benefits of weight loss surgery reach far beyond a change in physical appearance. Born with diabetes that was not accurately diagnosed until he turned 13, Kirk has struggled with health problems almost his entire life. Most significantly, he had to have several toes amputated as a result of his diabetes, although he is still quite ambulatory thanks to special shoes with custom insoles. Despite these health challenges, Kirk did not consider weight loss surgery, until he got news from his doctor that changed the course of his life. “He told me that I probably had only 10-15 years left to live.” Kirk was 50 years old at the time.

Soon after, Kirk went to one of the free information sessions offered by the NSMC Weight Management Program, which happen nearly every week at either NSMC Salem Hospital or at the Mass General/North Shore Center for Outpatient Care in Danvers. He quickly decided that surgery was the best approach for him.

 

Prior to surgery, there are medical tests, nutritional evaluation, a nursing assessment and a psychological evaluation. Since Kirk was so heavy, he also had to take a sleep disorder test, which resulted in a sleep apnea diagnosis. “Having to sleep with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine was the most grueling part of the whole process for me,” Kirk says. Shortly after his surgery, he was able to discontinue using the machine, an outcome that is not uncommon among NSMC weight loss patients. In fact, 92 percent of NSMC patients with sleep apnea stop using a CPAP one year after surgery.

 

In addition to recovering from his sleep disorder, Kirk has observed that getting around is now much easier. He was scheduled for knee surgery, but since his knees felt fine post-gastric bypass, he was able to cancel the procedure. Kirk had severe back pain as well, which is also a thing of the past. For the most part, all the other aches and pains he was feeling on a regular basis are now gone. He has also reduced the number of insulin injections he needs to take each day from three to only one.

 

Kirk already knew from doing his research that his diet would have to change after having bariatric surgery. One thing he did not expect, though, was that he would become a vegetarian. Post-surgery, he no longer has a taste for chicken, beef, and pork, and despite coming from a large Italian family where these ingredients feature prominently during get-togethers, he doesn’t miss them. “I even cook meat on the barbecue. I just don’t eat it,” he says.

 

When asked how he manages to keep the weight from creeping back onto his now fit frame, Kirk explains the importance of keeping busy, especially at night. “At home, you’re just sitting around, maybe reading the paper, or watching TV and over half of the commercials are about food. I feel like my hands and mouth need to be doing something, so I just try to keep busy with other things,” he says. Kirk also spends a lot of time at the gym, thanks to the energy he now has.

 

For Kirk, the most welcome change has to do with his mood. Previously, he often felt tired and unhappy. “Now I have a smile from ear to ear,” he says. “My mood is fantastic. I can honestly say that every day above ground is truly a great day.”

 

FREE INFO SESSIONS:  

NSMC’s Surgical Weight Loss Program is now offering free information sessions at NSMC Salem Hospital and the Mass General/North Shore Center for Outpatient Care in Danvers. These sessions offer a great opportunity to learn more about weight loss surgery options and ask questions. Register online at nsmcweightloss.org or call us at 978-825-6505.