Phyllis Lee: Heart Valve Disease

Phyllis Lee

Phyllis Lee of Hinckley, Minn., is no stranger to medical research. A decade ago, she had her aortic valve replaced when she participated in a clinical research study at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation® (MHIF). Recently, in February 2022, she participated in another MHIF research study and had her mitral valve replaced.

“The valve is not yet approved by the FDA, but it probably saved my life,” said Phyllis. “I’m just proud to be part of this study. The aortic valve I received was also through a research study. And now that's been approved. That's how things get done here. It’s people having the smarts to figure out what to do and helping medicine get better and better all the time.”

Phyllis, 75, suffered from severe mitral valve regurgitation, a condition in which the heart valve does not close tightly enough and causes blood to “leak” back into the heart chambers instead of flowing forward through the heart or into an artery. There are more than 4.1 million people with leaky mitral valves in the U.S. and 1.67 million who need life-saving treatment.

“My mitral valve was not functioning as it should for several years, and the regurgitation finally got so bad,” said Phyllis. “I just wasn’t feeling right and I would get out of breath really quickly when I was trying to walk. Dr. Paul Sorajja looked at my echocardiograms and thought I would be a good candidate for the study. It’s been wonderful for me.”

Phyllis underwent a transcatheter mitral valve replacement (TMVR) as part of a study that Dr. Sorajja is leading on the investigational Tendyne Mitral Valve System. MHIF research physicians were pioneers in research on transcatheter mitral valve systems, having implanted the first Tendyne system in the United States and seventh in the world in 2015. The procedure involves making a small incision in the chest, then inserting a catheter that enters the bottom of the heart and travels into the left ventricle to position the replacement bioprosthetic valve within the natural mitral valve.

A few months after surgery, Phyllis’ shortness of breath had significantly improved, but unfortunately after she and her husband caught COVID-19 after being vaccinated and boosted, she still gets a little out of breath. Due to some degenerative disk disease, standing and walking for any length of time are now difficult for Phyllis, but she gets through it all with her positive attitude and the help of husband Gari (who she affectionately calls “her rock”), a great group of supportive friends and MHIF’s research team.

“Both times I've had this done, the doctors are wonderful, but the people that you talk to in order to get things set up and to help you if you have any questions are just fantastic,” said Phyllis. “If you have problems, you just call them and I can't think of much that's better than that.”

She continued, “I just think Abbott Northwestern Hospital is fabulous; that's the only place I will ever go for anything major. If I get taken to the local hospital for something that has anything to do with my heart, they transfer me to the Minneapolis Heart Institute at Abbott, so that's wonderful.”


About the MHIF Valve Science Center

Dr. Sorajja is the Roger L. and Lynn C. Headrick Family Chair for Valve Science Research at MHIF’s Valve Science Center. The center is a multidisciplinary team of world-renowned key opinion leaders and physicians across multiple specialties, including interventional cardiologists, advanced imaging specialists, specialty nurses, research scholars, and cardiac surgeons.

The MHIF Valve Science Center is currently enrolling in the SUMMIT trial for the Tendyne transcatheter mitral valve system. Learn more on our clinical studies page and talk to your doctor about your options.

Give the Gift of Hope
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The Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation® (MHIF) strives to create a world without heart and vascular disease. To achieve this bold vision, we are dedicated to improving the cardiovascular health of individuals and communities through innovative research and education.

Thanks to the generosity of donors like you, we can continue this life-saving work. Please make a gift to support the area of greatest need.

Brad Paisley at Heart 360: Concert for Heart Research

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Brad Paisley at Heart 360 Concert

Ready to celebrate with a community that has heart? We are excited to announce Heart 360 Concert for Heart Research on Saturday, November 2 at The Armory with headliner and award-winning country music singer Brad Paisley! Purchase GA tickets via Ticketmaster, or Premium VIP tickets today: