Former Actress Praises Heart Procedure With Happy Ending
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As someone who had an early career acting in Manhattan, Julie Allen compares real life to good drama. When she talks about her recent heart procedure, the 76-year-old relates the medical team’s camaraderie to the doctors and nurses in the beloved movie-turned-TV-show M*A*S*H*.
“They work as a team so beautifully,” she reports of the crew at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital that repaired her malfunctioning heart valve with the MitraClip procedure at the end of May 2018.
Allen had experienced significant shortness of breath, and ultrasound imaging of her heart exposed the reason: severe mitral valve regurgitation. In short, the faulty mitral valve was allowing blood to spew backward into the heart’s left atrium. As she looked at the echocardiogram with her cardiologist, Dr. Joseph Aragon, during a routine follow-up, she could see it clearly. “That thing looked like Old Faithful.”
After full evaluation, Allen was considered high risk for conventional "open heart surgery." She’s thankful Dr. Aragon and Dr. Michael Shenoda, cardiologists affiliated with the Cottage Heart and Vascular Center, could resolve the situation with the MitraClip procedure, a dramatically less invasive alternative.
The Sansum Clinic doctors lead Cottage Health's interventional cardiology program and are the only ones on the Central Coast who offer the procedure, which they perform with guided imaging by Dr. Jason Boyatt. “It’s a heart team approach,” Dr. Aragon says.
Working through a catheter that they navigated from a vein in Allen’s leg to her heart, the team repaired the leaking mitral valve with the MitraClip device, eliminating the flow of blood in the wrong direction. "I almost felt a change immediately in recovery," Allen says. Now, her heart feels “more peaceful,” and she can walk much longer distances in her neighborhood without getting tired.
Dr. Aragon is proud Cottage Health offers patients like Allen such sophisticated solutions in cardiology. “In most places, you have to go to an academic center to get this level of expertise. On the Central Coast, you can get that through Cottage Health because of the team we’ve assembled here.”