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Life without the worry

Innovative treatment helps stroke survivor focus on future.

Article Author: Emily Sharpe

Article Date:

smiling couple posing in front of Christmas decorations

When Martin Brutscher learned that Baptist Health was part of a leading clinical trial for a new treatment for atrial fibrillation (Afib), he was eager to take part.

On Christmas Eve in 2019, the then-63-year-old had a major ischemic stroke, which occurs when the vessel supplying blood to the brain is cut off. The Fernandina Beach health care executive was rushed from Baptist Medical Center Nassau to the Stroke & Cerebrovascular Center at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville, where he spent three days in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

“My cognitive abilities were unaffected, but it took me six months just to be able to walk again,” said Brutscher. The stroke had paralyzed his right side. “In the beginning, I could barely raise my right hand.”

After months of intense physical therapy, Brutscher was back doing the activities he enjoyed, like playing golf and traveling.

But having Afib put him at greater risk of having another stroke, a fear that was firmly on his mind. To prevent this, he was taking blood thinners, which his body didn’t respond well to.

“I really hated being on them,” he recalled. “It could take upwards of 15 minutes to stop a very minor bleed.”

Clinical trial targets stroke and bleeding concerns

Brutscher's cardiologist, George Le-Bert, DO, with Baptist Heart Specialists at Baptist Medical Center Nassau, mentioned the clinical trial for the Amulet™, a new device for patients with Afib that allows them to stop taking blood thinners without increasing risk of future strokes. It seals the left atrial appendage (LAA), a small pouch connected to the upper left chamber of the heart, so blood clots can’t form and reach the bloodstream, which is what causes a stroke.

Baptist Health is one of the few centers in the country to participate in Catalyst, an FDA-approved, double-blind study (a randomized trial where neither patient nor physician knows who is receiving a particular treatment) aimed at allowing people with Afib, like Brutscher, to quit blood thinners.

Enrolled in the study, Brutscher was selected to receive the device. In November 2022, Ruby Satpathy, MD, FACC, FSCAI, a nationally recognized interventional cardiologist with Baptist Heart Specialists and medical director of the Baptist Health Structural Heart Program, performed the minimally invasive procedure.

“It was a good fit for him, and it was great that he could get off blood thinners before having a major bleed,” said Dr. Satpathy.

'We strive for perfection.'

Baptist Health’s Structural Heart Program is at the forefront of innovation with its regular participation in cutting-edge trials for procedures and devices to treat structural issues of the heart.

“We strive for perfection,” said Dr. Satpathy. “Our expertise enables us to do high volumes of these complex procedures with great outcomes for our patients in Jacksonville and Northeast Florida.”

Brutscher is one of many who have benefitted from this expertise.

“I’m very fortunate to have had the procedure. It’s allowed me to live my life without worry about another stroke in the future,” Brutscher said.

More information on Baptist Health’s Structural Heart Program can be found online. To make an appointment, call 904.202.9500.

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