‘I’m feeling better every day'

WATCHMAN allows Plover resident to get off blood thinners

An estimated 6 million people in the United States are living with atrial fibrillation (AFib) according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many patients are prescribed blood thinners to treat the problem. However, that isn’t always the best—or even safest—solution.

What is AFib?

Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is a common medical condition where faulty electrical impulses cause the heart to beat irregularly. The condition hinders the heart’s ability to pump blood, which can lead to blood clots and strokes.

Aspirus Heart & Vascular features a clinic devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of AFib. Call 715-843-1331 or go to treatafib.org to learn more.

That was the case for 82-year-old Delores Stephani. She was enjoying retired life in Plover, Wisconsin, after working as a secretary well into her 70s. Life started to get more complicated in the summer of 2018.

“I started having trouble breathing and eventually was admitted into the hospital to have some fluid removed,” Stephani said. “Around that time my prescription for blood thinners was changed due to my body weight.”

The increased dosage in Stephani’s prescription was giving her problems, but her doctors told her that she was at an increased risk for stroke if she went off her medications.

“I said I’d rather die than have a stroke,” she said. “So they kept me on my medication.”

WATCHMAN to the rescue

Stephani received some information about something called the WATCHMAN implant offered at Aspirus. She called to ask more about it and wound up scheduled for the implant procedure in September.

“WATCHMAN provides an alternative solution to medication,” said Pavel Guigauri, MD, a cardiologist at Aspirus who performed the surgery on Stephani. “A device is threaded through the femoral vein up to the part of the heart where blood clots form. Over time the body heals around the device, and it becomes covered in a thin layer of skin.”

The device typically takes about an hour to implant, and patients are often home the next day.

“That day completely turned my life around,” Stephani said. “Every day was uphill until after the surgery.”

Having the WATCHMAN device confirmed that it was Stephani’s medication that was making her ill and causing the need for frequent hospital visits. Today, she’s completely off blood thinners.

“I’m feeling better every day,” she said. “I couldn’t be more satisfied with the way things turned out.”