Octogenarian Finds Hope with MitraClip Procedure

Local woman, whose mitral valve disease was worsening, plans her 90th birthday celebration thanks to a minimally invasive option.

5:00 AM

Author | Jane Racey Gleeson

Women cheers with champagne glass
Ruth Pudists celebrates life this past New Year’s Eve. Images courtesy of Pudists.

There's no doubt about it: Ruth Pudists loves life. A worldwide traveler, the energetic 89-year-old has always been on the go, believing that "age is just a number." So when she began feeling exhausted a year ago, sometimes even finding it difficult to get out of bed, she knew something was wrong.

Pudists's symptoms were not unlike those she'd experienced 15 years ago when she underwent a successful quadruple heart bypass surgery. This time, however, her cardiologist diagnosed her with mitral valve regurgitation — a condition in which the heart's mitral valve doesn't close tightly, allowing blood to flow backward in the heart and preventing blood from moving efficiently through the rest of the body.

LISTEN UP: Add the new Michigan Medicine News Break to your Alexa-enabled device, or subscribe to our daily updates on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher

Although some individuals are symptom-free early in the progression of the disease, others may experience a cough, shortness of breath, low energy level, pain or tightness in the chest and an irregular heartbeat. Treatment for mitral valve regurgitation includes open heart surgery or any one of several endovascular procedures typically done through the femoral artery in the groin. 

Pudists's doctors felt her age made her too high risk for either type of procedure. "My cardiologist told me I wasn't a candidate for surgery as there would not be an optimal outcome," she says. Essentially, she said she felt she was sent home to die.   

A second opinion and hope

Undeterred, Pudists and her daughter, Mara, sought a second opinion at the Michigan Medicine Frankel Cardiovascular Center in July, where they met Steven Bolling, M.D., and his team.

MORE FROM MICHIGAN: Sign up for our weekly newsletter

"Dr. Bolling told me he had performed many procedures, including the MitraClip device, and that there was a 50% chance that they would be successful and help me," she says.

Those odds were good enough for her.

Bolling says the MitraClip device is typically recommended for high-risk patients with degenerative, functional or mixed mitral regurgitation and for whom open-heart surgery is not feasible. Rather than open surgery, MitraClip allows the surgical team to repair the mitral valve with a catheter guided through a vein to the heart.

SEE ALSO: A Cardiac Surgeon Answers Questions About Mitral Valve Disease

The MitraClip procedure is one of the offerings in the Frankel CVC's Percutaneous Mitral And Tricuspid, or MATRIx, program, which includes a variety of percutaneous or catheter-based techniques and devices that can repair or replace the mitral and tricuspid valves without opening up the heart.

Modris and Ruth Pudists enjoying previous holidays with their daughter Mara MacDonald.

A 'beautiful result'

After undergoing several tests, including a heart catheterization to make sure her arteries were healthy enough, Pudists was cleared for her procedure in early August.

"It was quick and successful," she says, and she was discharged the next day. "The morning after the MitraClip was put in I could walk from my bed to the bathroom without being short of breath."

"We had a beautiful result," Bolling says, adding that a strength of the MATRIx program is its roster: cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants all working together for the best possible patient outcome.

SEE ALSO: A Young Woman Shares Her Battle with Heart Valve Disease

"Even though Mrs. Pudists was considered high risk, we have to consider a patient's quality of life if we do nothing," Bolling says. 

Quality of life means everything to Pudists, who says she's feeling better every day and that her experience couldn't have been better. "I had no idea people could treat you so well. They are pure gems at the CVC."

Like most everyone, she's looking forward to the end of the COVID-19 pandemic when she can once again enjoy traveling, hosting her annual Christmas tea party and celebrating her 90th birthday.

After all, she says, "Life is for living."

Like Podcasts? Add the Michigan Medicine News Break on iTunes or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

Disclosure: Bolling consults with Abbott, the maker of the MitraClip device, mentioned in this story.

More Articles About: Heart Health Valve Disease Valve Repair and Replacement Cardiovascular: Diseases & Conditions
Health Lab word mark overlaying blue cells
Health Lab

Explore a variety of healthcare news & stories by visiting the Health Lab home page for more articles.

Media Contact Public Relations

Department of Communication at Michigan Medicine

[email protected]


Stay Informed

Want top health & research news weekly? Sign up for Health Lab’s newsletters today!

Featured News & Stories gif of a healthy heart pumping and a mitral valve regurgitation
Health Lab
Why It’s Better To Have Your Mitral Valve Repaired than Replaced
Having your mitral valve repaired before symptoms become severe can increase your longevity. Here’s one patient’s story.
smart watch on wrist
Health Lab
Clinical smart watch finds success at identifying atrial fibrillation
A Michigan Medicine research team developed a prescription wristwatch that continuously monitors the wearer’s heart rhythm and uses a unique algorithm to detect atrial fibrillation. The clinical-grade device, called the Verily Study Watch, proved very accurate at identifying atrial fibrillation in participants.
supar molecule teal blue yellow red
Health Lab
Immune protein suPAR links viral infection as possible cause of kidney disease
Through a series of experiments in non-human primates, mice and humans, a multi-institutional team led by researchers from Michigan Medicine and Rush University found that the immune protein soluble urokinase plasminogen activator receptor, or suPAR, is an important link between viral infections and proteinuria; the elevation of protein in the urine is known to cause glomerulopathy, a common form of kidney disease.
heart organ yellow blue
Health Lab
Irregular heartbeat after valve surgery increases risk of stroke, death
Postoperative atrial fibrillation, commonly known as Afib, has traditionally been viewed as benign and limited. But a study led by researchers at the University of Michigan Health Frankel Cardiovascular Center finds that postoperative atrial fibrillation increases the risk of strokes and permanent Afib — and is linked to worse long term survival — after heart valve surgery.
human organ for transplant
Health Lab
Findings shed light on how a pediatric heart surgery complication impacts heart transplant survival
Patients who experience this condition following the Fontan continue to have a high risk of death from the time they’re waitlisted for a new heart through receiving the transplant, according to a 20-center study led by Michigan Medicine. And one specific complication called cyanosis – or experiencing less than normal oxygen blood levels – was associated with worsened survival.
Brain image highlighting areas
Health Lab
Women stroke survivors believe they will receive worse care in the emergency room
National study examined health care perceptions of approximately 3,500 women, including those with and without a history of stroke