November 11, 2018
When Mike Copeland and his family discovered he needed complex cardiac surgery, they wanted to go to the best – immediately thinking Mayo Clinic or Cleveland Clinic. Then they discovered the best was in their backyard.
"I have a voracious appetite for data," says the 5-term mayor of Olathe. "The research showed in all outcomes that matter most, like mortality or infection rates, The University of Kansas Health System had identical or even better results."
Staying near home was vital since Mike and his wife, Maria, are on the run with a hyper-busy family of Olivia, 14, Abby, 12, and Joshua, 7.
"We would have made traveling work," says Maria. "But I would have been alone far from home, wondering how my kids were. I wouldn't have been able to focus on Mike."
A complex surgery
Mike, 52, had no inkling of heart trouble until his physician detected a murmur and insisted on an echocardiogram. The test revealed he had been born with a faulty aortic valve, and over time that valve calcified, leading to aortic stenosis. Without surgery, this condition could be fatal.
The Copelands turned to Gregory Muehlebach, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon at The University of Kansas Health System. Dr. Muehlebach also found Mike had an aortic aneurysm, which is commonly associated with his particular valve condition, a bicuspid aortic valve.
Now, 1 surgery would involve 3 major procedures.
Dr. Muehlebach also prepared the Copelands for the likelihood that Mike would require an additional, relatively rare procedure: deep hypothermic circulatory arrest. Mike's temperature would be drastically lowered with no breathing, no heartbeat and no brain activity.
Healthcare the way it's meant to be
The possibility of this procedure scared Maria the most. When the nurse came out to tell her that Dr. Muehlebach had found a way to avoid it, "That's when I lost it," she says.
As a result, Mike was in surgery for 5 hours instead of the expected 10, making his recovery faster, easier and less risky. Maria recorded a video message from him to his children at 7 p.m. that night, and he was working part-time 4 weeks later.
"I cannot tell you how thankful we are," says Maria. "This is what healthcare is supposed to be."