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Legacy Health's 200th Watchman device patient says she feels good

August 31, 2018

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NE Portland resident Ruth Jefferson-Simon, 86, mother to one and “Noni” to five grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren became Legacy Emanuel Medical Center's 200th Watchman device patient. She wants everyone to know that she "feels good."

In 2015, Legacy Emanuel Medical Center became the first hospital in Oregon to offer the Watchman device for patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation (A-Fib).  Structural Heart Medical Director Amish Desai, M.D., says this volume has landed Legacy Emanuel in the top 10 hospitals in the U.S. for implanting the Watchman. “Patients who benefit from a Watchman are those with A-Fib who may experience bleeding complications from blood thinners and want an alternative to these medications."

“I just want people to quit suffering,” said Jefferson-Simon. a retired cook, government worker and avid fisherman. Like most patients with A-Fib, she was put on blood thinners. “I took blood thinners for years, which gave me bad GI bleeds.” Her lifestyle was compromised by her heart problems and the bleeding complications often left her short of breath. Soon day-to-day tasks became challenging. She still had to cook and care for her husband of 30 years who has dementia. There was very little energy left for her passion, fishing.

“I’m a good fisherman,” she said with a smile. “I can beat everybody catching bass, but they still want to challenge me.” She keeps her fishing pole and tackle box ready and has gone to her favorite fishing hole several times since getting her Watchman.

The Watchman is a one-time procedure that can reduce the risk of stroke in people with A-Fib not caused by a heart valve problem. It is a permanent implant that closes off a part of the heart where blood clots commonly form. "The Watchman device is a very low risk, minimally invasive treatment that greatly reduces their stroke risk. Instead of putting patients on blood thinners, it addresses the problem at its source," said Dr. Desai.

Jefferson-Simon wasn’t afraid of getting the procedure; she was a born risk-taker. She grew up in a family of boys in Eldorado, AR. At age 10, her older brothers taught her how to drive. “They worked long hours driving dad’s wood pulp delivery truck so I would take over driving when they needed a nap.” She later moved to San Diego, CA, in the early 1960s, where Jefferson-Simon rode a Harley Davidson and traveled with a motorcycle club up and down the West Coast. “Those were the good old days,” she laughed. “I just want to ride one more time but this time, on the back.”

The Watchman device is about the size of a quarter and it doesn’t require open-heart surgery. The procedure is performed in a cardiac catheterization lab. The doctor makes a small incision in the upper leg and a narrow tube is inserted. The doctor guides the Watchman through the tube, into the patients left atrial appendage. The procedure is done under general anesthesia and typically takes about an hour. Patients like Jefferson-Simon typically stay in the hospital 1-2 nights and go home.  They remain on blood thinners 45-days after the procedure until the Watchman is permanently closed off.

Jefferson-Simon’s heart took an emotional blow when she lost her only son, Robert Mitchell, last year. She was a single parent for many years to this future television engineer. She fueled his mechanical curiosity by curbing her anger when he took apart home appliances just to see how they worked. “I just worked and bought him more stuff,” she chuckled.  He left his legacy by giving her four granddaughters and a grandson who dote and fuss over her and research everything her doctors suggest, even the Watchman. “They said 'Noni, we need you around', so I said yes to the Watchman and I want to tell others to do it because I’m feeling good and it’s made a difference in my life.”

 

--by Vicki Guinn, Legacy Emanuel Public Relations

 

For more information about the Watchman, click on Legacy Health’s website https://bit.ly/2Kx5Qol.

 

Click on the video to watch the 200th patient speak a little about her life and experience.

 

Sources: Boston Scientific

 

Photos: Ruth Jefferson-Simon and Vicki Guinn

 

Media contact: Vicki Guinn, Legacy Public Relations, vguinn@lhs.org, 503-413-2939.

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