Bruce Springsteen famously sang, “You can’t start a fire without a spark.” For Freehold resident Mary Beth Wilson, that spark came in the form of emergency hernia surgery.
Mary Beth, 52, an avid Springsteen fan, had been overweight for most of her life. She had struggled for years to get her weight under control. In June 2017, while at her heaviest, her life changed dramatically. During a vacation in Maine, Mary Beth woke up with pain so intense that she and her husband, Charlie, rushed back to New Jersey—and straight to CentraState’s Emergency Department. There, she met Val Prokurat, MD, DO, a board-certified general and bariatric surgeon who was on call that day.
Mary Beth had a history of abdominal hernias, which occur when a hole develops through the abdominal wall. Part of her small intestine had become trapped in the hole, creating a bowel obstruction and a life-threatening situation. Her health began to decline rapidly. Dr. Prokurat performed an emergency hernia repair, and during her recovery, explained that she would probably develop another hernia due to her weight. Mary Beth also was suffering from diabetes, hypertension, chronic lower back pain, and varicose vein disease, all of which can significantly improve after bariatric surgery.
“The day I went to the ER ended up being a very lucky day for me,” says Mary Beth. “My introduction to Dr. Prokurat was life-changing. I didn’t want to go through another hernia surgery, and he gave me the confidence to move forward with bariatric surgery.”
She attended Dr. Prokurat’s support group to learn what to expect, and in November 2017, he performed robotic gastric sleeve surgery. The benefits of this approach include smaller incisions, less scarring, less pain, and a quicker recovery, and Mary Beth was discharged the following day with minimal pain.
“Robotics have revolutionized surgery,” explains Dr. Prokurat, who serves as a national bariatric surgery proctor who trains other physicians. “The da Vinci Xi® robotic surgery system – the latest robotic technology available – enables surgeons to make very precise, accurate movements and visualize the inside of the body in 3D.”
Mary Beth has lost about 120 pounds since having surgery, but it hasn’t been a “quick fix.” She had another surgical procedure to remove excess skin, performed at CentraState by Dr. Prokurat and plastic surgeon Boris Volshteyn, MD.
She joined CentraState’s Fitness and Wellness Center and its bariatric fitness class. After meeting with a personal trainer to create a custom program, she now completes a routine of weights and cardio exercises four days a week. She thinks about food differently now, instead focusing on eating enough protein to be satisfied and drinking plenty of water. Since surgery, her diabetes, hypertension, and back pain have improved significantly.
Springsteen’s music has been an inspiration to Mary Beth, who has seen him in concert more than 130 times. She’s grateful for the “spark” that started her “fire,” and says timing is everything.
“Dr. Prokurat came into my life when I was ready,” she says. “I can’t thank him enough.”