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Dee DeBirk

Dee DeBirk
Posted on: 01/18/2022

Take me to the Heart Center at St. Mark’s Hospital: Goodbye blood thinners, hello peace of mind

For 14 years, Dee DeBirk and her physicians kept a close eye on her fluttery atrial fibrillation, or irregular and often rapid heartbeat. In addition to consistent appointments with her cardiologist, Dee took daily blood thinner medication to prevent stroke, since atrial fibrillation commonly causes poor blood flow that leads to blood clots. With their watchful care everything went smoothly for many years, until a different body part needed medical attention.

“When I had total knee replacement surgery, I got a blood clot behind my knee, so in the hospital I started taking another kind of blood thinner along with regular strength aspirin,” Dee said. “When I came home, I continued those medication and took my atrial fibrillation blood thinners … Well, I didn’t know it, but I was overdosing on blood thinners. I ended up back at the hospital with three internally bleeding ulcers!”

After that, Dee wanted to discontinue all blood thinners. That’s when her cardiologist recommended an innovative procedure performed within St. Mark’s Hospital’s heart center and introduced her to Dr. Vamsee Yaganti, interventional cardiologist.

“Dr. Yaganti’s an amazing man. I love him to death,” Dee said. “He told me I was a prime candidate for the Watchman procedure because my atrial fibrillation isn’t caused by a heart valve problem. He also explained that the implant could reduce my risk of having a stroke, and afterward I probably wouldn’t need blood thinners every day.”

One minimally invasive heart procedure made the difference.

Heart specialists within the Heart Center at St. Mark’s Hospital provide world-class care and innovative solutions to serve people with heart conditions. For Dee, Dr. Yaganti recommended the Watchman implant, a small device which permanently closes off a small area of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA), where blood often pools and forms into clots.

Using a minimally invasive technique, Dr. Yaganti carefully guided a narrow tube through a small incision in Dee’s upper leg. Once at the LAA, Dr. Yaganti placed the Watchman with precision. Overtime Dee’s tissues will grow over the implant.

“The procedure only took about 90 minutes, but it provides me with long-term peace of mind. Before, with my atrial fibrillation, I knew I had a high risk for stroke. It was always on my mind. I feel safe and better now. I’m very happy with how it went,” Dee said.

Dee spent time at St. Mark’s Hospital recovering from the procedure. Based on the consistently compassionate and quality care she’s received there, Dee says St. Mark’s remains her hospital of choice.

“I love St. Mark’s Hospital! I gave birth to my youngest son there after it first opened. My family practitioner and all my records are there. I wouldn’t go anyplace else,” Dee said.

One year after Dee’s procedure at the Heart Center at St. Mark’s Hospital, Dee no longer needs blood thinner medications. Plus, she feels like she has more energy for day-to-day life and less stress about having strokes.

“I’m 73 years old and I feel pretty darn good! I’m happy and healthy and active. I definitely say, ‘Take me to St. Mark’s Hospital,’” Dee said.

For one day access to world-class cardiovascular care, call the Heart Center at St. Mark’s at (801) 266-3418.

Dee DeBirk
Posted on: 01/18/2022

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