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August 16, 2019


First Patient to Receive Device Doing Well


Dr. Almanfi and WATCHMAN device; ThedaCare Cardiovascular Team

August 16, 2019


First Patient to Receive Device Doing Well 

APPLETON, Wis. – Virginia Hentz is preparing for vacation with her large family. It’s a trip she wasn’t sure she would be able to make due to ongoing health issues.

“I’ve always been worried about having a stroke,” she said. “It has always been a fear of mine.”

After a visit with Simone Fearon, MD, and ThedaCare Cardiovascular Care medical director and physician leader, Virginia learned there might be an option to reduce her risk for stroke. 

“Dr. Fearon told me that there is a new option called WATCHMAN,” she said. “After hearing about it, I knew I wanted to learn more.” 

The WATCHMAN Device offers patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation (AFib) an alternative to long-term warfarin blood thinner medication. People with AFib may be at greater risk for stroke than those with normal heart rhythms. The WATCHMAN Closure Device blocks off an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA) to keep harmful blood clots that can form in the LAA from entering the blood stream and potentially causing a stroke. By closing off the LAA, the risk of stroke may be reduced.

“Up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable,” said Abdelkader Almanfi, MD, director of the ThedaCare Structural Heart Program. “WATCHMAN can help reduce the risk of stroke for certain patients. The recovery time is minimal, generally requiring just an overnight stay in the hospital.” 

On July 25, Virginia became the first patient at ThedaCare to receive the WATCHMAN device in a procedure performed by Dr. Almanfi and the Cardiovascular Care team. 

The next day, she went home. 

“It was exciting to be the first person to go through this. Everything went very well,” said Virginia. “It’s given me a peace of mind to know that my risk for stroke has been reduced because of the procedure.” 

In a clinical trial, nine out of 10 people were able to stop taking warfarin just 45 days after getting WATCHMAN. Providers must determine that patients meet specific criteria and are good candidates for the procedure. 

Virginia and her husband praised the staff at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton. 
“They were all great,” she said. “They took the time to sit down with our family and answer any questions we had, and made sure to visit with us before and after surgery. It made us feel confident knowing they cared.” 

They also noted the convenience in WATCHMAN now being available in the Fox Valley.

“I can’t imagine driving to a big city and being away from home,” said Virginia. “It was nice to be in our community.”   

“We understand the importance of bringing new technology to our patients, keeping them close to home where they can receive the best care available,” said Dr. Almanfi. “It means a lot to our patients and we are proud of the new options we can provide.” 

Now Virginia has big plans – keeping up with her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren on vacation. 

“I’m thankful I went through the procedure,” she said. “Anything I can do to help ease my worries, it is all worth it.”

The WATCHMAN Device has been commercially available since 2009. According to Boston Scientific Corporation, who produces the implant, the WATCHMAN device, is the only FDA-approved implant proven to reduce stroke risk in people with non-valvular atrial fibrillation. It has been implanted in more than 50,000 patients worldwide.

About ThedaCare
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves a community of more than 600,000 residents and employs more than 7,000 healthcare professionals throughout the regions. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 31 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.