Madison Woman Found Alternative to Watchman Procedure

Heart & Vascular Care
“I’m totally impressed with Dr. Castro’s bedside manner. He explained everything and talked to me every single day as I recovered. He’s an excellent and humble doctor. Once when I thanked him he said, ‘It’s not me; it’s all God.’”

Retired court reporter Cheryl Redepenning of Madison, Minn., enjoys knitting, crocheting and quilting.

She taught sewing to her granddaughters by introducing them to “I Found a Quilted Heart,” a community of volunteers who anonymously create and place small, quilted hearts around the globe for others to find and take home.

“My 12-year-old granddaughter has made hundreds of them. It’s our way of putting a little bit of happiness in people’s lives,” said Cheryl.

However, it was Cheryl’s own heart that began to prevent her from doing her hobby and bringing joy to others.

For 20 years, Cheryl needed to be on blood thinners due to atrial fibrillation (AFib). For people with AFib, blood does not pump out of the top of the heart normally, and blood clots can form in the left atrial appendage (LAA). The blood clots can break loose and flow into the bloodstream, where they can travel to the brain and cause a stroke. Blood thinners reduce this risk.

Needing an Alternative to Blood Thinners

Unfortunately, Cheryl found the cost of blood thinners and their required testing expensive — up to $400 every three months. The medication was also inconvenient.

“Anytime you were on antibiotics, anytime you were drinking, anytime you ate green vegetables… it just seemed like the medication interfered with everything. It caused total havoc with my system,” said Cheryl, “including severe nosebleeds. One nosebleed lasted 12 hours, and in a two-month period, I needed an ENT to stop them four times.”

It came to a point where Cheryl would sleep in a recliner. If she laid down, she would wake up with a nosebleed. If she placed silverware in a dishwasher, she would get a nosebleed. If she carried in groceries, her nose would bleed. “When you’re getting nosebleeds, you’re cognizant of holding your head a little bit more slanted back, and the worst was when it affected my sewing. I got to the point where I just wanted my life back.”

Preventing Strokes with AtriClip in Minnesota

That’s when Cheryl came to the CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center. She hoped to receive a Watchman device that would close off the LAA to prevent clots from forming. A successful implant would reduce stroke risk and eliminate the need for blood thinners after around six weeks. Unfortunately for Cheryl, her anatomy didn’t allow her to be a candidate for the procedure.

The team at the Heart Center investigated other options. Cardiac Surgeon Nathaniel John Castro, MD, suggested AtriClip, a clothespin-like device that clips shut the LAA to prevent blood from flowing into it. It requires minimally invasive surgery, but once complete, Cheryl could stop blood thinners immediately.

The procedure has not gained mainstream use because most patients want a less invasive procedure, like Watchman, rather than a thoracic surgery requiring general anesthesia, even if minimally invasive. Additionally, most cardiac surgeons are not thoracic surgeons and are not comfortable doing a thoracoscopic procedure.

Cheryl and Gil
Cheryl says everyone loves my Santa
(her husband, Gil) and there’s
nothing better than being Mrs. Claus.

“Cheryl’s case demonstrates the depth of our program in St. Cloud and the teamwork that allows us to provide patients with a variety of options for finding a path forward,” said Dr. Castro.

Cheryl said when Dr. Castro suggested the AtriClip, it was a Godsend. When she received a call a few days later regarding a surgical opening due to a cancellation, she jumped at the opportunity.

“I told the scheduler, ‘Yes!’ If I hadn’t been available that day, I would’ve made myself available.”

Following the surgery, Cheryl was taken off blood thinners and she was finally able to sleep in a bed normally for the first time in 20 years without getting nosebleeds. Cheryl couldn’t say enough about her stay at CentraCare – St. Cloud Hospital.

“I’m totally impressed with Dr. Castro’s bedside manner. He explained everything and talked to me every single day as I recovered. He’s an excellent and humble doctor. Once when I thanked him he said, ‘It’s not me; it’s all God.’”

Cheryl's granddaughters quilting at church
Cheryl can quilt with her granddaughters
at church again.

“It is professionally rewarding to see a happy patient make a full recovery after suffering 20 years of debilitating symptoms,” said Dr. Castro.

Thrilled with her outcome, Cheryl said, “I went from major nosebleeds to absolutely none. I can do everything now, even the little things I took for granted until I didn’t have them.”

Cheryl has found her heart, and it’s with the CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center.