Coronavirus: Check here for latest testing information, visitor restrictions + service changes.

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 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)
Patient Stories

Patient Stories

COVID-19 patient Nic Brown wrote a heartfelt message to his Cleveland Clinic caregivers after leaving the intensive care unit.

COVID-19 Patient Writes Inspiring Message on Glass to Caregivers

Mar 28, 2020

“Every day I was there, especially when I was on a ventilator and full life support, the staff would write on the window the goals for me to try and reach each day. One day someone wrote, 'We will get you home.”
Read Story
Harper eating cashew butter during one of her test sessions at Cleveland Clinic Food Allergy Center of Excellence.

Child With Peanut Allergies Turns to Same Food to Build Tolerance

Mar 9, 2020

"Exposing Harper to little bits of peanuts everyday, as long as the reaction remains mild and doesn't progress, will help her overcome the allergy so she doesn't have it as an adult." 
Read Story
Cheryl West reading a book in her kitchen

Patient’s Ability to Speak, Eat and Chew Is Restored After Cancer Treatment

Mar 9, 2020

“The doctors were great, and very patient with me. I did everything they told me to do to keep my strength up and take care of my mouth. They kept me going.”
Read Story
Back to Top