Hospital celebrates 100th patient with device keeping watch on the heart

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - More than six million people may be at higher risk of stroke because their heart isn't pumping their blood as well as it should.

Medications to help carry their own risks, so a device called the Watchman can provide an alternative.

Stormont Vail in Topeka recently celebrated its 100th person to receive the device.

Dale Liby was patient number 55.

"I had no symptoms, no pain," he said, explaining doctors found during a checkup that he had atrial fibrillation.

Pat Myrick was number 98, and says she knew something wasn't right.

"I was tired, really tired a lot," she said.

In patients with atrial fibrillation, abnormal heart rhythms may cause the heart to not move blood through the way it should. As a result, it may pool in an appendage and clot.

If those clots get out, they may cause a stroke. The Watchman acts a sort of filter to keep them in, allowing patients to avoid blood thinners, which doctors might have prescribed to prevent the clots.

Sarah Anglemyer, RN, who is Stormont's Structural Heart Coordinator, says taking blood thinners can be a concern for some people, especially those who lead active lifestyles.

"With being on a blood thinner, you have a higher propensity to have a bleeding event if you're in a car accident or you sustain a fall and you end up with a head bleed," she said.

The Watchman is deployed through a catheter. The procedure takes about 45 minutes. Patients typically stay overnight in the hospital, then see their cardiologist for a few followups.

"They're able to go out, enjoy life, and do what they want and not worry about if they get a cut or they fall, that they're gonna have a major bleeding event," Anglemyer said.

Dale is glad the Watchman headed off any problems he might have had. He says he needs to be there for Marian, his wife of 62 years.

"I know the Lord is taking care of both of us," he said.

As for Pat, her energy is back - and, after 54 years together, her husband Neal hopes to keep up!

"I'm gonna have to get me one of them!" he laughed.

The Watchman may not be for everyone. Talk to your doctor about it. You also can find more information about it by clicking here.

You also can learn about atrial fibrillation at heart.org.