This winter, an “06880” reader suffered a stroke. He shares the experience of his dangerous health issue — and advanced cure — in hopes of helping others with strokes caused by atrial fibrillation or an intolerance to blood thinners.
It was early evening Wednesday, January 23. My wife and I had just returned from a month-long trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and a wedding in Minneapolis.
She was in the living room. I was preparing a lecture for my university classes later that week.
When she talked to me, I responded in gibberish for a couple of minutes. She wanted to call the emergency room, but I told her it was just jet lag.
The next day I got up and began to read a book. But nothing made sense. Again I seemed to quickly overcome this condition. By afternoon I was again reading normally.
Yet I became alarmed, and we looked up symptoms of a stroke. We immediately made an appointment with our internist.
He diagnosed a stroke, but did not know the source. He sent me for a complete work-up: MRI, CT, etc.
I had a full-blown stroke in the back of my brain. Fortunately it did not kill or disable me. The stroke appeared from atrial fibrillation (AFib). Blood clots form in the heart, and are fired into a vessel that leads right to the brain.
My father had died of a stroke. My brother had 2 strokes. They were caused by structural defects in the brain.
I was told I could go on blood thinners the rest of my life. But the long-term effects might not be pleasant, and might compromise my health in other ways. I would also require constant monitoring.
My dependence on drugs had been minimal, my health up to then excellent. I was extremely depressed at the thought my life might change. Or worse yet that I would suffer anther stoke, which might disable or kill me.
Two weeks after the stroke, my cardiologist called to asks if I would be interested in a new Watchman procedure developed by Boston Scientific.
He explained that 90% of clots are formed in the left atrial appendage, a cup-like structure on the left side of our hearts. The LAA captures blood in a lake-like form. But if the LAA can be sealed off with a special cap and anchor structure, there is nowhere for clots to form.
The procedure involved a catheter entering the body from the femoral artery, then guided to the LAA on the left side of the heart where the CP and anchor structure was deployed.
About 2 months after it is placed, when heart tissue grew over it, there is no need for blood thinners or additional treatment to prevent AFib strokes for the rest of one’s life. (A daily baby aspirin was recommended because of my age.)
The procedure was approved by the FDA in 2015, and is done at leading hospitals throughout the United States.
(Click here for an excellent website describing the Watchman procedure, including photos and videos.)
I had the Watchman installed at Yale University in mid-February. The procedure took 2 1/2 hours. I stayed overnight to assure that that the catheter entry site had healed, and was out the next day.
After an imaging exam at the end of this month, I will not have to worry about clots caused from AFib.
I am amazed and thankful for all the support my wife and family gave me during this time. I am also amazed at this wonderful medical advancement.
(The author wishes to guard his medical privacy. However, he is happy to speak with any “06880” readers about the Watchman procedure. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will forward your message to him.)