For more than four years I dealt with horrible fatigue. I wore monitors, visited cardiologists, pulmonologists, obstetricians and primary care physicians, but the fatigue continued.
In 2009, during a CAT scan and ultrasound meant to check on a gall bladder issue, my physician happened to discover a large atrial myeloma in my heart. I underwent open heart surgery in March of 2009 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Following surgery, I dealt with atrial fibrillation (Afib), but after a few weeks everything seemed to return to normal and I no longer noticed Afib as an issue.
Fast-forward to 2014, at which point I began to experience overwhelming fatigue caused by Afib.
During the first week of September 2016, I experienced extreme fatigue again. The third week of September I had a trip planned to New Mexico. I had started feeling better, so I flew to Albuquerque, New Mexico and drove with a friend to Santa Fe. I returned via Denver to Nashville after three days, and was not feeling the greatest while traveling. As I exited the Nashville airport, I could not seem to figure out how much money I owed to get out of the parking lot, but as it was 2:00 a.m. I just thought it was because I was tired. My husband had reserved me a room close to the airport, so I would not have to drive the more than two hours home. When I got to the hotel, I could not open the room door with the card key, but still believed it was due to me being tired. I woke up the next morning and drove to my home, and decided that maybe I needed to see my doctor. When I tried to call, I could not figure out how to dial the phone number.
My husband took me to the ER at our local hospital, and it was determined rather quickly that I had a brain bleed. I was flown by helicopter back to Nashville to Centennial Hospital, where they immediately took me off my blood thinner. After four days in the hospital I was sent home to recover, which was challenging. Following several weeks of recovery time, things seemed to return to “normal.” It was determined that my brain bleed can likely be attributed to the blood thinner, the altitude changes and flying.
No words can express the anxiety, panic and concern that I felt not having a blood thinner to protect me, given my increased risk of stroke due to Afib. During the time that I was not on a blood thinner, the doctors worked to figure out what was next for me. After several appointments and phone calls, it was determined I was a candidate for a WATCHMAN™ Left Atrial Appendage Closure Implant, an alternative to blood thinners for people with non-valvular atrial fibrillation.
I truly was interested in something that would give me peace of mind and the option to not return to blood thinners. With blood thinners, no matter the kind, bruising and any incident that “broke” skin was always a concern. The smallest injury always meant significant amounts of blood, to the point of my husband being constantly concerned. I love being outside, which seemed to lend itself to regular injuries, and on blood thinners my arms and legs always looked like I had been in a fight.
I had the WATCHMAN implant inserted in April 2017. By October 2017, I was taken off all blood thinners except for baby aspirin. If I experience Afib, I feel comfort with the WATCHMAN knowing that the blood is not pooling. I can enjoy being outside working in the yard and not worrying about cuts or scrapes. I can enjoy family time with my great nieces and great nephew and not worry about excess bruising as “park time” is their favorite! WATCHMAN was the right choice for me! After it is inserted, you never know it is there, but it takes care of the blood pooling when you experience AFib.
I experienced more severe AFib a few weeks ago and truly had the comfort of not worrying as I had in the past about a stroke. It allowed me to just concentrate on getting past the AFib. I would tell others that talking to your physician and discussing issues you are having due to blood thinners would be a first step. I found it helpful to do some research myself and find out as much as I could about device alternatives. There is also a website, www.WatchUsNow.com, which would be a good resource. Another site that shares information about AFib and treatment options is StopAfib.org.
*Boston Scientific reviewed this article for technical accuracy.