Patient Story: Judy and Jim

print page Print
Love, Health and Hope: Couple Shares Journey to Overcoming Health Scares & Finding New Solutions for AFib

After a series of health scares, multiple surgeries and getting married all within the last three years, Judy Richardson and Jim Fox say they're embracing life and all its surprises.

In 2021, Judy Richardson, 82, recalls being rushed to the emergency room after her breathing became intensely labored. While at the ER, Judy experienced sudden cardiac arrest and her heart stopped beating. The care team acted swiftly to save Judy’s life and restore her heart’s rhythm. Testing revealed Judy was suffering from atrial fibrillation (AFib)—a type of abnormal heart rhythm that can be deadly if left untreated.

Judy and Jim smiling.

Judy was released from the hospital and prescribed a daily blood-thinning medication to treat her AFib temporarily. While she still felt uncertain about her health, she happily recalls the one thing that did provide her with some added clarity: "I was diagnosed with AFib in 2021, but that’s also the year Jim and I reconnected. We hadn't seen each other for 26 years. A friend put us in touch, and the rest is history," Judy says, laughing. "I came up to visit him and three days later, we were engaged."

By March 2022, Judy and Jim were happily married. They recall their first trial as a newly married couple just four days later. "I was at a cardiology check-up. I felt fine. I went to the checkout counter to schedule my next appointment and had a massive stroke," Jim remembers. "The left side of my face fell, my left arm wouldn't work and my left leg wouldn't work. The nurses saw what was happening and immediately transferred me to the ER." In the ER, Jim learned he, too, was suffering from AFib, and was prescribed the same medication as Judy. Soon after, the two began searching for more long-term solutions and were referred to cardiologist Maheer Gandhavadi, MD, FACC, FHRS, at Overlake's Heart & Vascular Care Center—a partnership with EvergreenHealth Heart Care.

During their initial meeting with Dr. Gandhavadi, Judy shared some of the issues she was having with her medication, including severe bruising—a common side effect of blood-thinning medication. Dr. Gandhavadi informed Judy and Jim of a new program for those with AFib that could help answer their concerns. Called the Left Atrial Appendage (LAA) Closure Program, it offers the latest devices to lower the risk of stroke and provide patients with AFib an alternative to being on long-term blood thinners.

“AFib can cause blood to pool in a small pouch in the heart called the left atrial appendage,” explains Dr. Gandhavadi. “During an LAA closure procedure, your doctor threads a tiny device to the heart through a catheter inserted into your vein. The device then seals off the patient's LAA so that blood clots can’t form and blood can’t get in—protecting patients from future stroke.”

In January 2023, Judy received the LAA closure device implant, followed by Jim, who had his procedure just a month later. Both say they're happy to be off blood-thinning medication and know their stroke risk is lowered. Reflecting on their future, Judy says, "You appreciate each day more when you have someone to share it with. It's so promising. With this procedure, we can look forward to having longer lives together."

As the most advanced center of its kind on the Eastside, Overlake's Heart & Vascular Care Center, in partnership with EvergreenHealth Heart Care, offers a full range of resources for the prevention, early detection, rapid treatment, and rehabilitation of heart and vascular diseases. To learn more, visit:

Email icon
Sign Up for the Healthy Outlook eNewsletter