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Heart Device Protects Man From Strokes

There isn’t much that slows 81-year old John Kocevar down.

“As you grow in age doesn’t mean you have to be less active [sic],” John says.

A few years ago John noticed that his heart was beating out of sync, so he went to the Cleveland Clinic and was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, also known as a-fib.

"The heartbeat can go up to hundred-some, hundred thirty, hundred forty, maybe even higher and I didn’t find it real pleasant."

Atrial fibrillation, or a-fib, is a common heart problem that affects about 2.5 million people in the United States. The condition, which causes the heart to beat erratically and increases stroke risk, can be especially scary if standard medicines fail.

“The heartbeat can go up to hundred-some, hundred thirty, hundred forty, maybe even higher and I didn’t find it real pleasant,” says John.

People with a-fib have a 5-fold increase in stroke risk due to blood clots that can form in the heart and travel to the brain. To reduce that risk, John was taking blood thinners but they made his blood too thin – and then he fell.

“At the emergency room I was telling the emergency doctor and he said if you had hit your head with the blood that thin, you could have had a massive brain bleed [sic],” John says.

“The heart basically has irregular beats and people experience it with symptoms of palpitations, tiredness, and they can develop heart failure or the most dreaded complication, stroke,” says John's doctor Oussama Wazni, MD a physician at the Cleveland Clinic Miller Family Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute.

John’s doctors determined he was a perfect candidate for a unique heart device called The Watchman designed to reduce stroke risk – and potentially eliminate the need for blood thinners.

“It’s an umbrella-shaped device that can catch the clot and prevent it from going to the brain,” says Dr. Wazni. “The clot is trapped basically behind it and it’s resolved by the body.”

The device is inserted through a vein in the leg and secured in an area of the heart where clots typically form.

After successful surgery, John has recovered and is feeling great. He is still working 40-hours a week, although he does plan to slow things down... eventually.

“There will be a day that I’m going to join my wife in retirement and we’re going to go out and have some fun,” John says.

Related Institutes: Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute (Miller Family)
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