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Avid Athlete Attributes New Life to Bariatric Surgery

Monday, January 24, 2011 - Danbury, CT

Keith Zuccala, M.D.

Keith Zuccala M.D.
Section Chief, General Surgery
Harold and Myra Spratt Chair in Minimally Invasive Surgery
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At nearly 400 pounds, Vincent Fiorentino felt his life was “out of control” with the prospect of life-threatening diabetes and high blood pressure. “If I don’t do something soon,” he thought, “bad things are going to start happening.”

Now only good things are happening.

Today, Fiorentino is an avid runner and biker who competes in 5K runs, 30-mile bike races and duathlon events after undergoing bariatric surgery with Keith Zuccala, MD, at the Center for Weight Loss Surgery at Danbury Hospital.

“I’ve gone from a size 54 to a size 38 in pants,” said Fiorentino, who no longer needs diabetes or blood pressure medication following surgery. “I feel terrific.”

On the road to wellness

Ranked among the best in the nation, the Center for Weight Loss Surgery offers a full spectrum of minimally invasive surgical options and support services to help people lead healthier lives. The Center brings together the expertise of bariatric surgeons, medical specialists, nurses, dietitians, exercise professionals and others to provide ongoing support and expertise. Board-certified surgeons are skilled in minimally invasive gastric bypass surgery, gastric band surgery and gastric sleeve surgery.

“Morbid obesity is a dangerous and chronic disease that puts people at risk for developing serious medical conditions from diabetes and cardiovascular disease to hypertension and sleep apnea. It also decreases life expectancy,” said Dr. Zuccala, who is chief of General Surgery at Danbury Hospital.

“About 99 percent of all procedures can be done laparoscopically using minimally invasive surgical techniques that involve smaller incisions, less pain and a quicker recovery,” said Dr. Zuccala, who holds the Harold and Myra Spratt Chair in Minimally Invasive Surgery. “The entire surgical team is specially trained in bariatric surgery to maximize patient safety and outcomes.”

Embracing a healthier lifestyle

Fiorentino admits the transformation hasn’t been easy. “Bariatric surgery is not a cure. You need a good mind set because you have to work hard at it. But it’s worth it,” he said. “I highly recommend Dr. Zuccala and the team at Danbury Hospital. They did a fantastic job. I see why the Center is ranked number one in Connecticut and among the best in the nation. The entire crew is great.”

One of the “biggest benefits” of surgery was getting off medication, he said. Prior to surgery, Fiorentino needed multiple medications, including four daily injections, to control his diabetes and high blood pressure. “My blood sugar level was still at 200 despite all the medication,” he said. Now he only takes vitamins.

Eating and exercise habits dramatically changed, too. “Before I’d eat two cheeseburgers and fries. Now I eat a single hamburger without the bread and a salad.” At home, he spends more than an hour a day on the elliptical trainer. “I’ve had the exercise machine for years, but it was mostly a clothes rack,” he said.

Last spring, Fiorentino began running and biking – two activities that are now a passion. So far, he has competed in three 5K runs, a 30-mile bike race and two duathlon events, which consist of as one-mile run, a 25-mile bike ride and then another five-mile run. This May, he will compete in the Leatherman’s Loop, a 10K trail run featuring two river crossings, a quarry climb, pine forests and swamps.

“The biggest accomplishment is finishing the race and not worrying about whether you come in first, second or third,” he said.

On the sidelines rooting for Fiorentino is his wife, who also underwent bariatric surgery. She, too, is doing marvelously. “It’s like being married to a new woman!”

About Danbury Hospital

Danbury Hospital is a 371-bed regional medical center and university teaching hospital associated with the University of Vermont College of Medicine, the Yale University School of Medicine, the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center. The hospital provides centers of excellence in cardiovascular services, cancer, weight loss surgery, orthopedics, digestive disorders, radiology and diagnostic imaging. It also offers specialized programs for sleep disorders and asthma management. Medical staff members are board-certified in their specialties, and most serve on the faculty of the nation’s finest medical centers offering a higher level of experience.

Danbury Hospital is recognized by the American College of Surgeons (ACS) National Surgical Quality Improvement program (NSQIP) as one of 25 ACE NSQIP participating hospitals in the United States to achieve exemplary outcomes for surgical patient care.