By Janet Goetze
For the Star News
Legacy Emanuel Medical Center became the first hospital in Oregon in 2015 to offer a particular implant for patients with atrial fibrillation or AFib, and an Alameda neighbor has benefitted from the treatment.
Barbara Reader, 77, a gardener, world traveler and 35-year volunteer at Emanuel, said, “Life afterward is still the same – great!”
During a routine doctor visit in April 2015, Reader learned she had an irregular heartbeat. The diagnosis was AFib, a condition where the upper chambers of the heart beat too fast and irregularly.
This can cause blood to pool and possibly form clots in the heart’s left atrial appendage or LAA. Blood clots can travel to the brain, cut off the blood supply and cause a stroke.
Reader began taking blood thinning pills to prevent clots, but she had side effects. “It affected my gums and teeth,” she said, “and that didn’t make me or my dentist happy. Plus, I didn’t like being tied to taking a daily drug and living with the fear of having a stroke.”
As it happens, Dr. Amish Desai, the medical director of the Legacy Health Structural Heart Services, had participated in ten years of clinical trials leading to federal approval for a Watchman device, made by Boston Scientific. He has implanted more than 95 devices and also teaches other cardiologists, or heart specialists, how to implant the device.
Because of his work, Emanuel is in the top 10 of U.S. hospitals for implanting the Watchman, according to a medical center spokeswoman. Structural heart services are at www.legacyhealth.org.
The device doesn’t require open heart surgery. A surgeon guides the Watchman device via a catheter through a vein in the upper leg and into the left side of the heart. Once in place, it seals off the left atrial appendage. Over time, tissue grows over the Watchman, creating a permanent seal.
Reader found out about the Watchman from a magazine advertisement, which showed a device about the size of a quarter that looked like a little parachute. She wrote down a telephone number with the ad and asked her husband what he thought about the device.
He said he trusted her intuition. “So I called my cardiologist the next day,” Reader said.
Reader’s cardiologist ordered tests to see how well her heart works, and the results looked good for the implant. The procedure took about an hour and required an overnight hospital stay.
“I felt so good later that day that I could have gone home,” said Reader. “I had no pain or discomfort.”
Before leaving, however, she had an echocardiogram to make sure the device was implanted properly. She also continued blood thinners for 45 days as a precaution.
Before surgery Dr. Desai explained the device and procedure to her, Reader said, without pressuring her.
“He told me to think it over and let him know if it was right for me,” she said. “Happily, it was, and a few weeks after that ad, I got the greatest gift – peace of mind.”