High-risk heart patient gets two life-changing options

October 11, 2016 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

For 82-year-old Franklin “Del” Sandberg of Malta, IL, the problems began about eight years ago in 2008, when he was 74 years old. The retired electrical contractor wasn’t feeling well. Although he had no major pain, he knew something wasn’t right so he went to the ER.

From the ER in DeKalb, he was ambulanced to a medical center in Rockford for an angiogram. But during the angiogram, Sandberg started having a heart attack and he immediately underwent a bypass procedure.

Sandberg was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, or AFib (an irregular heartbeat) and mitral regurgitation, or MR (which occurs when a weakened mitral valve allows blood to leak backward into the heart, forcing it to pump the extra blood).

For the next few years, Sandberg was in and out of the hospital. When his symptoms worsened, he consulted with the doctors in Rockford. “They indicated to me that there wasn’t anything they really wanted to do because I had already had a bypass and probably would not survive another open heart procedure,” he says. “It seemed I had run up against a road block as far as getting treatment.”

At the suggestion of several neighbors, Sandberg and his wife Carol met with the cardiac team at Edward, including Mark Goodwin, M.D., an interventional cardiologist, and Moeen Saleem, M.D., a specialist in cardiac electrophysiology.

The couple learned there was an alternative to open heart surgery to repair his leaky heart valve — an advanced procedure called MitraClip®. Edward was the first community hospital in the Chicago area to use the catheter-based MitraClip, which has been shown to control MR, improve cardiac function and reduce hospitalizations for heart failure.

In June 2015, Sandberg underwent the MitraClip procedure at Edward Hospital. The cardiac team delivered the device via catheter in Sandberg’s leg to the left ventricle of his heart. There, the clip was positioned over the leaky mitral valve, so it could grasp the valve's leaflets and control the flow of blood. The procedure was a success and Sandberg was home the next day.

“Before the procedure, he wasn’t really able to do much of anything. The way he felt afterward, it was a huge change for him,” said wife Carol.

With one advanced procedure on the books, Sandberg’s cardiac team still wanted to see him off the blood-thinning medication warfarin he was taking for his AFib. The drug can cause problems for patients, especially when taken long term.

About a year later, on June 7, 2016, Sandberg had a second high-tech procedure at Edward – called WatchmanTM. Edward was the first community hospital in Illinois, and is currently one of only a few hospitals in the country, to offer the Watchman left atrial appendage closure device.

During the implant procedure, the cardiac team inserted the Watchman device into a vein in Sandberg’s leg and guided it to a pouch in the heart called the left atrial appendage. Once the device was in place, its parachute-like component was opened to about the size of a quarter. This sealed off the area, preventing blood clots from traveling through the blood stream to the brain where they can cause a stroke.

The procedure lasted about an hour and Sandberg was discharged from the hospital the next day. “There was really no recovery period for either procedure. I came in one morning and was home the next day for both,” says Sandberg.

After about six weeks, came good news. Sandberg was able to stop taking the blood-thinning medication warfarin.

Sandberg says he and his wife are grateful to have found a place near home that specializes in heart care. “The staff at Edward is exceptional. All they do is see heart patients. They are so familiar with everything they’re doing and so professional,” said Carol.

Sandberg is scheduled to see Dr. Goodwin again for a routine check-up in November. And although he still has some shortness of breath today, Sandberg is able to do woodworking and spend more time with his wife, three children, seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Learn more about heart and vascular care at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Join us on Tuesday, Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. for a free evening program on AFib Awareness at Edward Hospital, Education Center Auditorium. Moeen Saleem, M.D., a cardiac electrochysiologist, will discuss atrial fibrillation symptoms, risks, complications and treatment options to help your heart. Register online or call us at 630-527-6363.

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