KANSAS CITY, KAN .— Mike Copeland is a very busy man.
Besides being the mayor of Olathe, Kan., he’s the deputy secretary for the Kansas Department of Commerce.
But his most important job is that of father of three and husband to Maria.
So Copeland was shocked when a routine doctor’s visit turned up a heart problem that he’d had from birth and didn’t know about. “I played high school and college football, and track, and we’re just now finding out about this when I’m 51!” said Copeland.
He was born with a bicuspid aortic valve, meaning the valve had only two tissue flaps to help pump blood through the heart. A normal aortic valve has three flaps. That defect had caused damage to the ascending aorta, as well as the aortic root, so he needed three major repairs in one surgery.
At first, Copeland and his wife were convinced they’d have to go to Cleveland Clinic or Mayo Clinic for this rare and risky procedure. But neither liked the idea of having to leave their family in the care of relatives for the weeks it would take for the surgery and recovery.
After doing a lot of research, and talking with a neighbor who’s a physician, Copeland checked out The University of Kansas Hospital.
“I looked at outcomes, mortality rates, hospital infection rates, things that really matter to me, and I found out that The University of Kansas Hospital’s outcomes are identical to Mayo’s…among the best in the country,” said Copeland. “So why go to Mayo? You’re not getting any better care. You’re getting the same quality care here and don’t have to disrupt the family.”
The Copelands met with Dr. Greg Muehlebach, a heart surgeon at The University of Kansas Hospital. He assured them that he could take care of the problem. “It’s not something that’s common in the general population, but for our program, this is a common operation,” said Muehlebach.
Dr. Muehlebach told the Copelands that the procedure could take from five to 10 hours, depending on what the aorta looked like when they actually examined it in the operating room. Fortunately, the procedure only took five hours, and that lessened the recovery time considerably.
Copeland went home in five days and with rehab, was able to do light work from his home office in two weeks. Just four weeks after the surgery, he was back at both jobs.
“I have never met a doctor like Dr. Muehlebach,” said Maria Copeland. “He took his time with us and we never felt rushed. He helped turn our panic into confidence.”
“He’s our Superman!” said Mike Copeland. “I think we underappreciate the incredible resource we have at The University of Kansas Hospital.”