The Watchman at Community Memorial Hospital: Joanne’s Story

Joanne’s Story

Meet Joanne Willett, a 77-year-old ranch owner from Santa Paula, California, whose active, independent lifestyle was compromised by heart problems due to non-valvular atrial fibrillation (A-Fib).  Like most other patients with this condition, Joanne was at a high-risk for stroke, and was placed on the standard treatment protocol of warfarin blood thinner therapy to prevent blood clots from forming in her left atrial appendage.

“Blood thinners and working on a ranch just don’t mix,” said Joanne, a 77-year-old rancher and A-Fib patient.

But in Joanne’s words, “blood thinners and working on a ranch just don’t mix!”  Bleeding complications eventually started to negatively impact Joanne’s life.  Day to day tasks became increasingly challenging to accomplish safely, and she began to feel uneasy doing the things she loves, like riding her horses through the hills on her ranch.

After hearing Joanne’s concerns, a physician at Community Memorial Hospital (CMH) in Ventura recommended that she make an appointment with Dr. Ishu Rao, Director of Electrophysiology Services at CMH, to discuss a new and innovative procedure known as the WATCHMAN.  During her consultation with Dr. Rao, Joanne’s path back to independence became clear.  Watch the video to hear the rest of Joanne’s story!

The Watchman at Community Memorial Health System

Community Memorial Hospital was the first in Ventura County, and among the first in California, to offer patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation (AF) an alternative to long-term, blood-thinning warfarin medication with the newly approved WATCHMAN Left Atrial Appendage Closure Implant.

“The WATCHMAN device has proven to be extraordinarily helpful in the prevention of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF),” said Dr. Ishu Rao, Director of Electrophysiology Services at Community Memorial Hospital.  “With this minimally invasive procedure, we can eliminate the need for blood thinners in patients with AF who have high risk features for stroke.  The CMH program has been growing since its inception in August 2017, and patients like Joanne have already experienced the benefits of discontinuation of their blood thinners.  The WATCHMAN has become a key tool in our management of patients with atrial fibrillation.”  As of the end of February 2019, 51 successful WATCHMAN device implants have been performed at Community Memorial Hospital.

For patients with AF who can take warfarin but seek a non-drug alternative, the WATCHMAN Left Atrial Appendage Closure Implant is an alternative for reducing their risk of AF-related stroke.  The WATCHMAN Implant closes off an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA) to prevent harmful blood clots from the LAA from entering the blood stream and potentially causing a stroke.  By closing off the LAA, the risk of stroke may be reduced and, over time, patients may be able to stop taking warfarin.

The most common treatment to reduce stroke risk in patients with AF is blood-thinning warfarin medication.  However, long-term warfarin medication is not well tolerated by some patients and carries a significant risk for bleeding complications.  Implanting the WATCHMAN is a one-time procedure that usually lasts about an hour.  Following the procedure, patients typically stay in the hospital for just 24 hours before discharge.

Watch the detailed WATCHMAN procedure animation below and learn more about device implantation and function.  If you think you or someone you know might be a candidate for the WATCHMAN, ask your cardiologist or primary care physician to refer you to the Electrophysiology program at Community Memorial Hospital for a consultation.  Jonathan Dukes, M.D. and Ishu Rao, M.D. are currently performing the WATCHMAN at Community Memorial Hospital.