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Man loses 120 pounds after bariatric surgery, walking program

A painful ankle injury made it difficult for Kurt Kugelberg to maintain a stable weight. “I always had trouble walking after I broke my ankle. This was one of the reasons that I started to gain weight, and eventually I reached 336 pounds.”

But the 62-year-old Franklin Park resident got the help he needed when he enrolled in the bariatric care program at Loyola University Health System. He went through a three-month program of medically supported weight loss and then had Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery. Within a year Kurt lost 120 pounds – and he’s still losing weight. 

Kurt’s struggle with weight loss became more severe a few years ago, after he left his job and returned to the Chicago area to help care for his mother. He had an inactive lifestyle, which led to new medical conditions -- a heart rhythm problem, shortness of breath, sore joints and sleep apnea. “They put me in a hospital because my heart rate was too low. I was in a hospital for a couple of days and a heart doctor told me I had fatty liver and I was pre-diabetic,” he recalled. 

“That kind of woke me up.” 

So when his physician suggested he go to one of Loyola’s free weight-loss seminars, he took the suggestion seriously. Kurt met with Bipan Chand, MD, the director of the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery & Bariatric Care, and together they agreed that Kurt would be a good candidate for a gastric bypass surgery. That started Kurt on a path of dramatic weight loss.

The staff at the center for bariatric medicine checked out his insurance information and requirements before he got started in the program.  “They did all the legwork. That really helped the process.”

Dr. Chand says that getting Kurt into an exercise program and changing his  diet accelerated his progress. “Within a month after a surgical intervention, we encourage an exercise program,” Dr. Chand says. “This includes weight and aerobic exercise to increase energy consumption – that helps jump-start the weight-loss.” Soon Kurt was able to stop taking his medicine for diabetes and cut back on other medications.

Kurt committed to light exercises, like walking around the neighborhood, and taking a half-mile walk in the pool every day. And in June – less than a year after he joined the program – he walked in Loyola’s Health, Hope and Heroes 5K event, completing it in an hour and six minutes. “I couldn’t have done that a year ago,” he observed.

Kurt noticed the big differences in his health after he joined the program. “Before I started to lose the weight I could barely walk a block or so and back without feeling a lot of pain.”

Now, he says he hasn’t felt this good since he was a high school student. “It’s amazing. Even my ankle doesn’t hurt me anymore.”

Kurt appreciates the support he’s gotten from the Loyola staff since his surgery, and that’s one of the reasons he’s recommending the program to his friends. He’s received coaching from a dietician, a psychiatrist and an exercise physiologist. “They meet with you a couple of times throughout. … You feel very supported.”

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