diabetes · genetics · health · Medical

The Strength of Her Heart

“Everyone is born on a staircase. Most people are born at the bottom…. But I wasn’t.”

Victoria Fortuna is a freshman at Palm Beach Atlantic University suffering through what she calls, “a crazy medical background.”

Fortuna was diagnosed with diabetes when she was eight years old; a genetic disease that she says plagues her mom’s side of the family. Fortuna remembers her doctor telling her how most people are born at the bottom of a diabetes staircase and begin to climb the stairs towards diabetes as they age. Fortuna doctor told her she was born already three-fourths of the way up.

Fortuna also has PCOS, Polycystic ovary Syndrome, a condition the causes her ovaries to habitually produce cysts. When these cysts rupture, as Fortuna’s did just a few years ago, fluids from the cyst can irritate the pelvic lining causing excruciating pain in the pelvic area.

As if this wasn’t enough, Fortuna calls herself  “a stone maker,” because she suffers from regular Kidney Stones.

In January of 2011 Fortuna nearly lost her life when a stone became lodged in her kidney. The blockage caused her system to start shutting down. The hospital ordered Fortuna to be airlifted to Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut, but because the helicopter was taking longer than usual, Fortuna’s mother drove her daughter four and a half hours, more than 160 miles, to Yale-New Haven Hospital.

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Victoria Fortuna and Gina Bunch have always been inseparable
“I’ve been in the emergency room more than 15 times,” said Fortuna, “I’ve been on so many medications that it’s nothing new to me.”

Fortuna admits that she can be a very stubborn patient and recalls arguing with her parents before most rides to the hospital.

“I always think they are going to say ‘your just passing a kidney stone’ and send me home,” said Fortuna. “but most of the time, they do admit me… you’d think I’d learn by now.”

Fortuna’s medical condition is so unpredictable that one high school teacher told Fortuna to consider a University closer to home.

“I was offended,” said Fortuna, “she (the teacher) was the reason I decided to go to school far away… to show that my medical background didn’t control my life.”

Before Fortuna started at PBA, she lost 100 pounds in less than two years. The weight loss did wonders for her diabetes and Fortuna is no longer using her insulin pump. However, the rapid weight loss came with a price and Doctors at Good Samaritan Hospital believe it to be the cause of Fortuna’s Gall Bladder failure this past February.

“I was having pain under my ribcage for a few days,” said Fortuna, “but I’m stubborn and figured if I just drank some tea it would go away.”

Days after the pain started Fortuna finally gave in and called her older brother. She confided in what was happening and asked for his advice. Her brother told her to go to the hospital immediately.

“I really didn’t want to go, it was midterm week and I had a huge lit. test on Thursday. I was like ‘I’m not missing that.” said Fortuna.

Fortuna’s friends took her to Good Samaritan Hospital on a Wednesday evening at 10 p.m., three days after the pain started, marking her first hospital admittance without her home support.

“It was really scary,” said Fortuna, “I’ve been in so many hospitals but never without my mom and they wouldn’t let anyone in with me because of Hipaa. My friends had to wait in the waiting room.”

Fortuna’s mother, Gina Bunch, got the phone call at 11 p.m. Wednesday night but couldn’t get a flight out until Thursday morning.

“I was packed and at the airport by 4 a.m.,” said Bunch, “I was flying standby and I just wanted to start running knowing she could go into surgery any minute. Luckily someone gave up their seat for me and I was able to get on the 8 a.m. flight.”

Bunch arrived at Good Samaritan Hospital at noon on Thursday, just a few hours before Fortuna’s surgery.

“The Doctor said that my gallbladder was full of gall. It was so bad that they scheduled an emergency surgery even though the surgical wing had already closed,” said Fortuna. The Doctor told Fortuna that removing her gallbladder was of top priority.

The surgery was a success and Bunch stayed with her daughter until she was discharged from the hospital Saturday night.

“It’s been really difficult to be far away from my support system,” said Fortuna. “But PBA has been so good for me. Even though it would be easy to go back home I wouldn’t because I love it here and the education department is awesome.”

Bunch was reluctant, at first, to let her daughter go to school so far away.

“It is very very hard to be 2,200 miles away from your daughter when she is going into an emergency room,” said Bunch, “and it has been murder being so far away from her, but I’m so proud of her and she is doing so well.”

Bunch says that Fortuna’s life verse is Psalm 73:26,“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

“She is always positive. I’ve never heard her complain about her condition,” said Bunch, “she is so thankful for everything she has and she has never questioned God. I wish I could be as good as she is, she is a better example to me than I am to her.”

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