Sunday, April 22 , 2018, 6:14 am | Fair 53º

Your Health
A Noozhawk partnership with Cottage Health

Watchman Implant Helps Betty Winkler Get Stronger Than Ever after Heart Attack

Betty Winkler, with daughter Wendy, used her Watchman implant as motivation to regain her strength and energy. “If it’s going to make me better, I’m going to do it,” she says.
Betty Winkler, with daughter Wendy, used her Watchman implant as motivation to regain her strength and energy. “If it’s going to make me better, I’m going to do it,” she says. (Cottage Health photo)

“I feel like a new person.”

You’d never know it to see her today, but Betty Winkler had a heart attack this past March. Shortly after, she developed atrial fibrillation (AFib).

AFib is an irregular heartbeat that can cause fatigue and dizziness, and can lead to blood clots and stroke. Medications helped for a while, but at other times the side effects left her “all around miserable” — nauseated and unable to sleep restfully.

Winkler’s cardiologist, Dr. Joseph Aragon, knew she was a good candidate for the new, minimally invasive cardiac procedure called the Watchman implant. Watchman is specifically for patients who have AFib not related to heart valve disease and who need an alternative to long-term blood-thinning medication.

The Cottage Health heart team implanted the Watchman device — resembling a tiny mesh umbrella — to seal off a potential source of blood clots in the heart. At the same time, they performed a cardioversion to reset Winkler’s heart rhythm.

Her AFib stopped; she no longer needs blood thinners, and with a regular heartbeat she continues to feel better.

Winkler’s daughter, Wendy, recalled the search for answers and how frustrating it was to see her mother struggle with different medications.

“The Watchman was a blessing to Mom in that it meant that she could eliminate the blood-thinning drugs and still get stroke prevention,” she said.

Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital was one of the first hospitals in California to offer the Watchman implant for patients with atrial fibrillation.

“SBCH has a long history of offering structural heart disease treatment, and that has paved the way for us to offer this new and groundbreaking Watchman procedure for patients,” Aragon said.

After getting the Watchman implant, Winkler worked to regain her strength and energy. Her age was no deterrent, and she maintained her healthy attitude.

“If it’s going to make me better, I’m going to do it,” she said.

These days, Winkler is back to doing activities she has always loved: cooking, sewing and reading. This month, she’s celebrating her health and her 91st birthday.

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