Health News

Clinical trial gives woman a new lease on life


Newswise — Versil Joyles-Stapleton, 76, can’t seem to slow herself down — a drastic change to how she lived her life just 2 years ago.

In 2021, she could barely get herself out of bed. Daily tasks were impossible and masks made it hard to breathe. She was always exhausted, she stopped driving, stopped cooking, stopped volunteering at her church — she was too tired to do anything. She just stopped living. 

Then one appointment with her cardiologist helped her make sense of it all. Versil was diagnosed with a severe case of aortic valve regurgitation, a condition that occurs where the aortic valve in the heart does not close tightly and allows blood to leak back into the heart chamber. The solution? Open heart surgery.

“I didn’t want to undergo open heart surgery,” Versil said.

She was referred by Ahmed Ansari, MD, to Sukhdeep S. Basra, MD, an interventional and structural heart cardiologist with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston. Basra leads the ALIGN trial at UTHealth Houston, where physicians use a transcatheter aortic valve replacement, a minimally invasive approach to treating a leaky valve with an innovative valve technology available only in clinical trials in U.S. Instead of open-heart surgery, patients enrolled in this trial can have their leaky valve treated through a catheter inserted in the groin and go home the next day.

“Ms. Stapleton was the perfect candidate for this procedure,” Basra said. “All the things she enjoyed doing were all impossible due to her severe aortic valve regurgitation. She had significant worsening in her quality of life and open-heart surgery was considered very high-risk for her.”

Versil went in to see Basra and his team, and on April 26, she underwent the procedure.

“I have been feeling awesome,” Versil said. “I know that I still have to take it easy, but I feel so good I can’t slow down. I’m back in church, and working toward my daily routines. I have no problem breathing, my blood pressure remains stable — I feel great. Before the procedure I would walk like an old lady, I slouched, and now I am just myself again. My daughters tell me ‘Mom, you did have a procedure — take it easy,’ but I feel like I can do anything again. I have my life back.”

Versil goes to physical therapy 3 times a week, where she rides an exercise bike while physicians monitor her progress and heart.

“She has recovered much faster than expected,” Basra said. “She is such an energetic and motivated woman; I think this has really helped her get back on track.”

“I can’t say enough about how great I feel. I am living proof that works. This is just amazing. It’s modern technology and it works,” Versil said.


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