Nancy’s Story: Active and Upbeat Following AFib Surgery

At an early age, Nancy Bailey learned that if she got sick or injured, she should treat it as no big deal. “Mom was a nurse. Very matter-of-fact. Her mantra was ‘don’t worry, you’ll be fine.’”

Like the time Nancy had a too-close encounter with a moving car while riding her bike. “My mom told me to put some ice on it. I’d be okay.” An X-ray the next day revealed a broken knee cap.

So, in 2014, when Nancy started having episodes that felt like her heart was racing, she remembered what she’d been taught. “At first I would wonder if I was going to faint. Then the feeling would quickly pass, so I’d forget about it.”

But the fluttery feeling kept happening again and again. She could be gardening, having lunch with friends, or driving to work. “I might be doing something strenuous or just reading a book. I’d get that sensation in my chest, and then it would quickly go away.” 

A stronger-than-usual episode while at her job in Troy was a wake-up call. “It lasted longer than the others. I held onto my desk waiting for it to pass. It scared me,” she recalled.  

She headed straight to Upper Valley Medical Center’s Emergency Department, where tests indicated atrial fibrillation (AFib), an irregular heartbeat that affects the heart’s ability to pump blood normally. For the next month, Nancy wore a monitor. “It showed I was having many more episodes than I realized,” she said. 

Nancy learned that AFib places patients at high risk for stroke

Her cardiologist, Kevin Kravitz, MD, explained that blood thinners typically are prescribed to reduce AFib’s risk of causing a blood clot and stroke. “But like many AFib patients, Nancy has a blood disorder that prevents her from safely taking blood thinners,” Dr. Kravitz said. She needed a different option.

A device called the WATCHMAN™ now provides an alternative to blood thinners for Nancy and other AFib patients like her.

About the size of a quarter, the Watchman device is inserted into a small pocket in the left side of the heart called the atrial appendage. It’s like a plug that prevents blood from pooling there and forming clots.

“Outcomes have been excellent!” said Dr. Kravitz, who has implanted dozens of the devices. 

Since her surgery to implant the device in September 2016, Nancy has peace-of-mind in the knowledge that her risk of stroke is significantly reduced. Medications keep her AFib under control by regulating her heart rate and rhythm. “I still get that familiar fluttering every few months, but I don’t let it bother me.”

At 69, she is upbeat and busy, enjoying yardwork, quilting, and baking. Now retired, she continues to surprise her former coworkers with baked goodies from time to time. “They hated to see me retire for that reason,” she laughed.

And she’s making travel plans, including visits to family and friends in Finland and Wales.

“I don’t let the AFib slow me down,” Nancy said. “Just like mom taught me!”

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