How a heart procedure allowed her to keep roller skating

Twice a week Linda, 75, gathers with a group of friends in Aurora to roller skate with live music. Roller skating was a hobby Linda took on as a child, and it’s how she met and fell in love with her husband.

Throughout the years, Linda has led an active life participating in various physical activities including indoor skydiving and skiing. About a year ago, Linda had joined friends in Michigan to go snowshoeing.

“After we got married, I took a 30-year hiatus and then about 15 years ago, my husband decided to get back into it and I joined him,” Linda says. “It’s amazing how you can get back to the point where you still enjoy it, even years later.”

“We didn’t realize that the path we chose was a difficult level and as we were finishing up, my friends noticed I looked flushed,” Linda says. “As a precautionary measure, they took me to the ER where it was determined that I had an atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat.”

Doctors put Linda on medication to help regulate her heartbeat, but the side effects left her skin bruised. She wasn’t roller skating, and knowing how much she missed it, her physician referred Linda to a cardiologist to see if she was a candidate for a device known as the Watchman.

“Patients who are diagnosed with Afib, the most common type of heart arrhythmia, are at an increased risk of stroke,” says Dr. Neal Sawlani, cardiologist at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital. “Linda was a prime candidate because her AFib was not caused by heart valve problems, and she didn’t have any other underlying medical conditions that would interfere with the procedure.”

AFib causes an inability for the heart to pump blood normally and instead pools blood to an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage. If a blood clot escapes, it can cause a stroke.

“The Watchman device is implanted through a small incision in the groin under general anesthesia,” says Dr. Sawlani. “All of our patients have gone home the next day.”

Linda returned home and took six weeks before returning to her love of roller skating, taking up yoga during her recovery.

“My transition back to roller skating was slow and scaled back, but reasonable,” says Linda. “I was eager to return to my favorite pastime.”

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