Jim Dorrance - Roscommon, MI
"For me, the WATCHMAN procedure was a really good experience."
Thanks to a New Procedure, He Can Minimize His Bleeding Risk Safely
Jim Dorrance, 79, has always led a very active life. When heart problems started cropping up, he was faced with the challenge of balancing the risks of his condition with the active lifestyle he enjoys.
Jim has been married for 56 years and the couple has two children, six grandchildren and a great-grandchild. Jim worked at General Motors before retiring in 1992. Afterward, he earned his builder's license and has kept busy working on construction projects. He also races sailboats and has even written a book.
Trouble for Jim began in 2000 when he was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heart rhythm putting him at risk for heart failure and stroke. Because the upper chambers do not contract effectively during atrial fibrillation, stroke can occur if blood clots develop in a pouch in the left upper chamber of the heart called the left atrial appendage.
To reduce this risk, Jim's doctors put him on blood thinners. Although blood thinners are very effective at mitigating the risk of stroke, they carry an annual risk of major bleeding between 2-5%. Essentially, the blood thinners put Jim in danger of bleeding extensively if he injured himself or got a bad cut. With his active lifestyle splitting wood, working with power tools and managing the sails on a race boat there certainly were plenty of opportunities for injury.
Seeking expert heart care near his home, Jim became a patient of Electrophysiologist Nilofar Islam, M.D. "My biggest thing is how impressed I am with Dr. Islam and her whole team," he said. When discussing how he can safely reduce risks, he learned that a new procedure was available that could allow him to safely stop taking blood thinners. Referred to as the WatchmanTM Impant, the procedure closes off the left atrial appendage so blood can no longer pool or clot in it. This prevents stroke as effectively as blood thinners and at the same time does not pose the excess bleeding risk that the blood thinners impose.
Jim was quite intrigued. He first met with Dr. Islam for about an hour while she explained the procedure and answered all the questions Jim had. After they determined he was an ideal candidate, Jim attended a class on Watchman and met with all of the different team members involved in performing it. Due to the complexity of the Watchman Implant procedure, it requires the involvement of a multi-disciplinary team of specialists, including cardiologists, cardiac imaging specialists, electrophysiologists and interventional cardiologists.
The procedure itself was very quick, taking only about an hour. Jim was under anesthesia while Dr. Islam and other members of the Watchman team performed the minimally invasive procedure. They made a small incision in Jim's leg and used a thin probe to run the implant up through his femoral artery into his heart. This is implanted into the appendage under imaging guidance.
Jim stayed overnight at MyMichigan Medical Center Midland, and went home the next morning. "For me the Watchman procedure was a really good experience," he said. "I felt fine. I didn't have any pain." He didn't even need to do any physical rehab, though at his wife's insistence he took it easy for a few days.
"I don't feel any different, but psychologically it's a lot nicer knowing you don't have to take blood thinners and be at risk of bleeding," he said. "You don't worry about having accidents, like hurting yourself while working, dropping something on your foot, falling on the boat or bleeding out."
At his six-week follow-up visit, Jim and his heart were in great shape. Today, he is enjoying the peace of mind that the Watchman procedure has allowed him. "I would recommend it to anyone," he said. "In fact, I have!"
Those who would like more information on the Watchman procedure may visit www.mymichigan.org/watchman.
WATCHMANTM is a trademark of Boston Scientific. Boston Scientific is a worldwide developer, manufacturer and marketer of medical devices that are used in a broad range of interventional medical specialties.