Happy Thanksgiving and PFO Closure

I’m thinking about Thanksgiving this week, and the way my mother’s side of the family always gathered at someone’s home for dinner in those long-ago times when I was a boy. For those of you unaware of the ways of rural southeastern Illinois, that was the meal we ate at noon. The evening meal was always supper.

The men ate first. Apparently, that was also the way of rural southeastern Illinois. The women were on hand to serve the food and keep tea glasses filled and to take dessert orders. I’m not really proud of that fact, but, alas, there it is. The kids ate at card tables in a nearby room. I was the oldest cousin, so I was the first to be invited to join the men’s table. There, my Uncle Richard insisted I sit beside him, and there he initiated me into the group by putting food on my plate when the serving dishes came round even if it was food I told him I didn’t want. My protests didn’t matter. He told me he was certain about what was best for me. At his side, I learned that sometimes it didn’t matter what I preferred; sometimes, I had no choice but to give myself over to someone else’s care.

Such is the case now with my cardiologist. Last week in his office, he told me that the second clinical trial testing a new device for PFO closure had shown the device to be more effective in preventing a second stroke versus treatment with medical therapy. But, he emphasized, the results of the trial hadn’t reached “statistical significance,” which, as I understand it, is the data the trial would have to produce to indicate that its findings reflected a pattern and not just a chance. Bottom line? No one really knows whether closing a hole between the atria of the heart does a better job of preventing a second stroke than managing the condition with anti-coagulants. Still, my cardiologist is confident that closure is the way to go.

“What would you do if it were your heart?” I asked my cardiologist.

He didn’t hesitate.  “I’d close it,” he said. “In a minute. Wouldn’t even think about it.”

So on December 10, I’ll report to Riverside Methodist Hospital to have a a transesophageal echocardiogram done. This is the test that will confirm the presence of the suspected hole between my atria and also allow the cardiologist to access its size. If the hole is there and it turns out to be large enough to close, my cardiologist will do just that through a cardiac catheterization procedure. He’ll will thread a catheter through a femoral vein in my groin and deliver a septal occluder to my heart. The occluder is a small patch that looks something like an umbrella. It’s made of a polytetrafluorethylene material held inside a wire frame made of a nickel-titanium metal alloy called nitinol. Once the patch is in place tissue will begin to grow into the patch allowing the occluder to function as a permanent implant. My blood flow will return to its normal path, no longer able to shunt from my right atrium to my left, thereby significantly reducing my chances of having another stroke. I may be released from the hospital that evening or I may have to stay overnight. I won’t be able to run for a week, but I can walk right away, and after that week I should be back to full activity.

So, this Thanksgiving week, I give thanks for the love and support I’ve received from so many of you (keep it coming, please, as the days move on toward December 10), and I give thanks to the medical technology that has made such a procedure available for me, and I give thanks for my Uncle Richard who taught me all those years ago that sometimes your only choice is to keep quiet and surrender to the care of others. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.



  1. Audrey Webb on November 19, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Sending you much light and love now, on the day, and all through what I hope will be a quick and complete recovery.

    • Lee Martin on November 19, 2012 at 6:01 pm

      Thank you so much, Audrey. Happy of Happiest to you there in Texas.

  2. Maureen on November 19, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    Wishing you the blessings of this Thanksgiving season.

    • Lee Martin on November 19, 2012 at 6:01 pm

      Thank you very much, Maureen. The same to you.

  3. Ruth Ann on November 19, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Gosh Lee; I’ve been thinking most all of those same thoughts myself this last week.
    And it appears that I’ve taken over the same job that your Uncle Richard had back then—trying to convince someone else to do something that they really have no interest in doing?
    And now I can’t remember what are side of the family did back then at our Holiday dinners? I know there were always people in the living room and the kitchen.
    Now at my husband’s side of the family dinners the “Elderly” set at the table and are served first. I like that “Now.”
    I will be thinking of you Lee and all are ancestors on Thanksgiving Day.
    And our prayers are with you~~My extended family.

    • Lee Martin on November 19, 2012 at 6:01 pm

      Thanks for your good thoughts, Ruth Ann.

  4. Kate Cone on November 19, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    Hi Lee: I am moved by the candor and emotion in your blog post. What courage that took. I’m from the Northeast, an hour north of Boston, and it seems I am still one of the women who serves dinner, although because that was my mother’s plight I have somehow “orchestrated” my family to wait until everyone is seated, including and especially women, until we all begin eating. And the men actually help with cooking and cleanup. As for the surgery, and your self-aware noticing that you sometimes have to surrender, congratulations. I am just getting “there” myself, and enjoying the liberation in knowing that my life with arrange itself without my interference, most of the time. Best wishes and we’ll all be sending our good energy on December 10th.

    • Lee Martin on November 20, 2012 at 12:48 pm

      Good for you, Kate, for orchestrating a more equitable dining arrangement. I do so appreciate your good wishes. May you have a very joyous Thanksgiving.

  5. Bren McClain on November 20, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    One of the actors in a movie I recently saw, Cloud Atlas, struck me with his words. He said he didn’t play a character, he played a soul. That got me to thinking, and I want to tell you, Lee, that you are a beautiful soul. You opened up your heart about your medical compromise and moved so many of us. Your doctors may physically close your heart, but spiritually it could never close. It’s just that big.

    • Lee Martin on November 21, 2012 at 4:41 pm

      Bless you, Bren.

  6. Julie on November 21, 2012 at 2:34 am

    Good luck and best wishes for you of the 10th, Lee!

    • Lee Martin on November 21, 2012 at 4:40 pm

      Thanks so much, Julie!

  7. riTa on November 22, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Thank you for sharing your heart and about your heart.
    I pray for your healing and health.

    • Lee Martin on November 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm

      Thank you so much.

  8. Dori on January 3, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Hi! I live in TX and upon researching other folks’ experiences with PFO stumbled across your blog. I just had mine repaired on the 26th of this month. I’d love to compare notes!

    • Mark St. Onge on August 16, 2013 at 11:33 pm


      Is all well with your repair. Are you off all blood thinners. I’d love to
      compair notes with you. Is this procedure as good as the DR.’S say it is?

  9. Mark St. Onge on August 16, 2013 at 9:39 pm


    A month ago I had a T.I.A. (small stroke). It’s looks like I’m a canditate for
    this device. I’m apprehensive. Would like to know how you are doing post
    No more coumadin, no blood thinners at all. Life is back to normal?

    I need to chat with some one who has gone through this.

    Thanks Mark

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