A doctor’s visit for shortness of breath ultimately led to the discovery that Jan Kopang’s heart was failing.
“I had rheumatic fever when I was 5 years old and always had a heart murmur because of that,” says the Maine resident. “It just got progressively worse.”
Kopang’s cardiac specialist in Maine referred her to Tsuyoshi Kaneko, MD, a cardiac surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
“I had no future to think of before. Now, I’m on top of the world. I told Dr. Kaneko that if I made it through, I was going to get a dog or a convertible. I decided on a 20-pound puppy.” —Jan Kopang
Kaneko performed double bypass surgery and mitral valve replacement on Kopang, but her health began to decline again. A second mitral valve replacement still did not alleviate her breathing troubles.
When Kopang returned to the Brigham in a wheelchair and on oxygen, Kaneko determined Kopang had residual stenosis that was restricting the full expansion of the valve. He proposed fracturing the valve using a balloon catheter and placing a larger valve.
“Dr. Kaneko told me they would have to blow out the valve because of the narrowing. He was very up front that this would be an experimental procedure, something they’d never done before,” Kopang says.
Noting her tremendous confidence in Kaneko and the Brigham team, Kopang agreed to the first-of-its-kind surgery, which gave her a new lease on life.
This article was originally featured in the 2018 Honor Roll, which celebrates donors to Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital. Check out more profiles of patients, clinicians, and researchers that illustrate the power of transformative philanthropy at the Brigham.