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Published on May 17, 2019

Watchman Offers Peace of Mind and Heart

Ronald and Marie Orehowsky promised each other comfort in sickness and in health when they exchanged their wedding vows over 60 years ago in 1956. Neither could have known the weight of those words, or the health journeys and procedures, they would endure together.

When Marie had 8 inches of her colon removed, Ronald joked that he then needed to get 18 inches of his colon removed because he couldn’t let her “beat” him.  

It wouldn’t be the only procedure the pair would go through together. Last year, when Marie had a ‘Watchman’ device implanted, they became the only couple at Jefferson Health to receive the devices for their hearts. The device is recommended as a way to prevent strokes in people with atrial fibrillation, or an irregular and rapid heart rate, that affects the heart’s ability to pump blood normally.

Ronald describes himself as the kind of person who is always “pushing the envelope” while Marie says that she is the exact opposite.

Ronald remembers when he was having his first heart attack, and requested to see his internist Dr. Kevin Zakrezewski when he presented at Abington Hospitals’ ER. When Dr. Zakrezewski confirmed that Ronald was having a heart attack, he told him he would need to stay at Abington. Ronald admits he was hesitant, stubborn in thinking that the best cardiologists were in Center City. His care team was adamant that he needed to be stabilized and treated immediately.

“I looked at Kevin and asked him to bring me the same cardiologist he would bring his own father,” Ronald said. “And that if anything went wrong, to put me in a trolley car to Center City.”

Nothing did go wrong though, in fact, the procedure to improve blood flow to his heart was a success. Ronald and his heart healed, but unfortunately, it would not be his last episode. He experienced three more heart attacks, received seven heart stents and a pacemaker before receiving the Watchman device in June 2016.

Meanwhile, Marie was taking Warfarin, a blood thinner that helps prevent blood clots. However, Marie was and continues to be a fall risk and suffered a particularly nasty fall last year, which left her head badly bruised. Dr. Zakrezewski said that if the bleeding went into her brain, it would be fatal. He wanted to take her off Warfarin but that would leave her heart vulnerable. Dr. Zakrezewski spoke with interventional cardiologist and director of the cardiac catheterization lab, Dr. Bruce Klugherz, and cardiologist Dr. Emanuel Kostacos.  The team agreed that the Watchman device would be the best possible option for Marie. They installed it in January 2018, and she was taken off Warfarin.

Ronald jokes that Marie just could not stand that he got one and she did not. “It’s like a full-time sentinel constantly on-guard,” he says. “I suppose that’s why they call it a ‘Watchman.’ Knowing it’s there and working for you is an indescribable feeling of security.”

Today, they are happily and healthfully enjoying their days with their five children, 13 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren. The pair also meets with a group that Ronald has dubbed the “Home Again Gang,” old friends that he found and reconnected with from the neighborhood in Philadelphia where they grew up together more than 70 years ago.

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