By Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) – Kayla Northam, a nurse at Faulkner Hospital, knows first-hand what can happen when patients with obesity are hospitalized with coronavirus.

“These people are getting sicker, they are in the hospital longer,” she told WBZ-TV. “Unfortunately, a lot of patients who pass away, it’s because of their obesity and other risk factors.”

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Weighing nearly 300 pounds after college, she also knows what it is like to live with that risk factor.

“I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without stopping to catch my breath,” she remembered. “They told me I probably wouldn’t be able to conceive naturally.”

But today she’s a healthy weight and mom to baby Jonathan, thanks to bariatric surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital. Kayla says the surgery changed everything about her life, including her ability to work with Covid-19 patients without worrying about her own added risk.

“I would be a lot more afraid than I am,” she said.

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Kayla’s doctor at Mass General, Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, says she’s seeing twice as many patients now as she did prior to the pandemic. Some of them are brand new patients and others are patients who have long resisted the idea of surgery.

“Many of them are stating that the reason why they are making that change really has to do with Covid,” she said.

Bariatric surgery is not a quick fix, but the weight loss that results can eliminate other risk factors like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Kayla understands surgery can be scary, but for her, the benefits have been life-changing.

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“I don’t know if I would have been the nurse I am today, who is physically able to do those things to take care of my patients and I wouldn’t have had my son, who I love very much.”

Dr. Mallika Marshall