SIDNEY — Before Nancy Keysor, of Sidney, developed atrial fibrillation (a-fib), she climbed mountains, spelunked in the desert, body surfed in the ocean and waterskied.
“My husband and I drove through a sandstorm in the desert and that’s when a virus got into my lungs and then it attacked my heart,” the retired teacher said. “Then my own immune system attacked my heart. That’s pretty difficult for someone who was so active.”
Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat rhythm. The heart, instead of pumping in a steady rhythm, quivers. It causes blood to collect in an upper chamber of the heart and puts its sufferers at greater risk of stroke.
According to Dr. Brian Schwartz, of Kettering Physicians Network Sidney Cardiology, the majority of people with a-fib take blood thinners to prevent blood clots. That, however, was not an option for Keysor.
“I am a bleeder, which means I can’t take the medication for thinning my blood or I could bleed to death,” she said. “The blood clots could go straight to my brain and kill me or cause a stroke.”
Schwartz, however, wasn’t about to let that happen. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year approved the Lariat Suture Delivery Device and Schwartz is one of the few surgeons in Ohio who has been trained to implant it in patients. Keysor is the first person in Sidney to receive one. The implement, developed and marketed by California company SentreHeart Inc., negates the need for open heart surgery to suture off the heart appendage where clots usually form.
“There’s a tubular appendage on the heart,” Schwartz said. “That’s where 90 percent of blood clots form. If you close off the appendage with a suture, you fix it by 95 percent. The Lariat is an implant of a suture delivery catheter, a little tube in the vein in the leg and another in the sac around the heart under the ribcage.”
Wires with magnets on the ends of them are passed through each tube. The magnets pop together, holding the tubes in place while the suture is placed over the appendage.
“We tighten the suture so no blod clots can form,” Schwartz said. A video of the procedure can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYILS3Qe2kI.
“If everything’s okay, (patients who have the procedure) are discharged and back to full activity in three to five days,” he added.
For her part, Keysor is delighted to have the Lariat.
“They worked so hard to get me into this program,” she said. “They had to convince the company that makes the Lariat Device to let me have it. (The company) hadn’t had any failures and they didn’t want to have one.”
It took her a week to get over the pain caused by the procedure. She recuperated at home.
“In the hospital, they give you all the morphine you want; then you go home with nothing,” she said. But it’s all been worth it.
“I have more strength and hope now than I have for years before,” she said. “Before this, I never had thoughts of doing some things. I had gotten awfully weak.”
Keysor suffers also from arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and congestive heart failure. She has a Pacemaker and a defibrillator. She uses railings in the hallways of her apartment building to steady herself as she does exercises to build her strength.
“I get tired, but now I can rest. I wake up from a nap or a night (of sleep), and I feel good. I feel strong,” she said.
She credits the doctors and her family with her recovery.
“I’ve never had a group of doctors so dedicated. When I went under (the anesthetic) hearing (Schwartz) pray, that was so pleasant,” Keysor said. “I have a son in North Carolina and a son in Tampa and brothers and sisters. They all helped me. They’re just so caring.”
She now spends time with friends playing cards: pinochle, bid euchre, straight euchre.
“I’m going to learn to play bridge next,” she said enthusiastically. “My faith is based on a God who created us to be happy creatures. So I can be happy even though I’ve got all these problems.”