Breathing Easy: Seven Lakes Woman Enjoying Long Walks and More After MitraClip Procedure

Brenda Robinette and her dog, Sasha Rey, catch up with Sun Moon Kim, M.D., interventional and structural cardiologist, outside Reid Heart Center.

Brenda Robinette was part of history earlier this year at Reid Heart Center, but she hasn’t thought too much about it. She’s been too busy enjoying her new lease on life.

Five months ago, the 73-year-old from Seven Lakes became the first patient in the Sandhills to undergo a transcatheter mitral valve repair (TMVr) with MitraClip therapy.

Performed by a team of heart specialists from the FirstHealth of the Carolinas Valve Clinic, the minimally invasive procedure repaired Robinette’s leaking heart valve.

“The moment I woke up from the procedure I could already breathe easier,” she said. “It was unbelievable. Before, I would walk a few steps and be out of breath. And often I would feel like I could never get a deep breath.”

Even more unbelievable? Robinette was home with her husband and puppy, Sasha Rey, the very next day, getting back to her new normal of deep breaths and comfortable walks.

Sun Moon Kim, M.D., interventional and structural cardiologist with FirstHealth, said Robinette’s procedure went as well as her team of experts could have hoped for and is a great example of the benefits of MitraClip therapy.

“We were able to fix Brenda’s valve within a couple of hours and she only required an overnight stay. A total hospitalization of one day. That is certainly the best-case scenario,” Kim said, explaining that normal hospital stays after the procedure are about two to three days.

The MitraClip helps correct mitral valve regurgitation, a condition in which the heart’s mitral valve doesn’t close tightly, allowing blood to flow backward in the heart.

If the mitral valve regurgitation is significant, blood can’t move through the heart or to the rest of the body as efficiently. Patients with severe mitral valve regurgitation may have heart failure symptoms such as fatigue, inability to exercise, difficulty breathing with exertion, or worsening edema (swelling).

“What made Brenda a good candidate was the fact that she wasn’t a good candidate for conventional open-heart surgery,” Dr. Kim said. “She had an open-heart procedure 18 years ago, and her symptoms were continuing to worsen despite appropriate medical therapies.”

Robinette hadn’t heard of MitraClip therapy prior to meeting with Kim and Stephen Davies, M.D., MPH, FirstHealth cardiothoracic surgeon, but she said from the very beginning she felt comfortable and assured that it would help her live a fuller life.

Robinette’s cardiologist, H. Allen Strunk, Jr., D.O., referred her to the Valve Clinic, and Kim and Davies determined she’d be a great candidate for the MitraClip. On July 2, 2020, a team of specialists surrounded Robinette in a cardiac catheterization lab at Reid Heart Center to complete the repair.

During the procedure, the MitraClip is guided into place using a catheter through a small incision in a leg vein. The clip is then attached to the flaps of the mitral valve to help it close more completely and restore normal blood flow thereby decreasing the leak. 

“Dr. Kim and Dr. Davies were incredible from beginning to end. They explained everything and put me at ease,” Robinette said. “I was scared but after meeting with them I had faith that things would go well. And after the procedure they were just as good. The entire experience at Reid Heart Center was wonderful.”

Davies said the team at the Valve Clinic is excited to offer the MitraClip procedure and looks forward to performing more.

“Based on recent large clinical trials, TMVr provides clinically important short- and long-term improvements for patients,” he said. “Patients experience a decreased chance of being hospitalized and an improved quality of life. We are pleased to provide this treatment option for patients at FirstHealth. Expansion in our structural heart disease program allows our patients to get high quality, comprehensive cardiovascular care without the need to travel elsewhere.”

Kim agreed, saying it takes a team effort to provide patients the best possible care.

“We want to share our program’s successes with the exceptional doctors in our community where everything begins,” he said. “We thank the referring doctors, fellow cardiologists, surgeons and FirstHealth administrators for their support.”

About Reid Heart Center and Valve Clinic

Opened in 2011, Reid Heart Center is a state-of-the-art facility on the campus of Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst. In addition to the Valve Clinic, also housed in the Reid Heart Center are the Chest Center of the Carolinas and the FirstHealth Cardiovascular & Thoracic Center.

The FirstHealth Valve Clinic blends the expertise of a team of heart specialists to offer patients a well-rounded, collaborative approach to care.

For more information about the FirstHealth Valve Clinic, call 1 (833) 20-VALVE.