Tag Archive | nebraska medical center

Heroes With Heart

I am WEAK… when it comes to blood, needles, shots.. BARF. When I was 19, I passed out in the doctor’s office while getting my blood drawn. While covering a story in pre-op before a patient’s surgery, I saw the needle and had to kneel on the ground before I dropped (which the doc thought was HILARIOUS.. click here for the story.) Even having my own babies in the hospital, getting IV’s put in made me lose my lunch.

Still, when I learned Westside High School was hosting a blood drive, I decided I was going to suck it up and DO IT. Every blood donation saves up to three lives; I could certainly withstand a little queasiness to do my part.

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I was so proud of myself – ROCK STAR STATUS! I squeezed that little ball and laid back and relaxed… until they took the needle out. WHOOOOOSSSSH!! The tech immediately jumped to my side and called for help…

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… and Gabby Henderson came to my rescue. Gabby is a student at Westside High (featured in this photo on the far left), and she has a special talent for taking care of people. I met Gabby a few months ago, when the Nebraska Medical Center brought the Stop The Bleed program to Westside’s Center for Advanced Professional Studies. Westside High students interested in Nursing and Medicine learned how to triage patients and save lives after an accident or tragedy. Gabby was also one of the student volunteers helping run the blood drive that day at WHS.. she helped fan me off, talk me off my ‘pass out’ ledge, and then sent me on my way with a smile and without any judgement the the Director of Communications for her district almost lost her cookies over a little bit of blood. You can guess how delighted I was to hear last month that Gabby was part of the state championship HOSA team (Health Occupation Students of America) who will now compete at the International Conference in June!

People like Gabby truly have a gift; they see beyond blood or sickness, and only feel compassion and a compulsion to help others. About 4 hours west of Omaha, Jade Vak knows the same calling.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“I have always wanted to go into the medical field,” Jade told me recently. “While volunteering, I have discovered my career ambition of becoming an Emergency Doctor.”

 

 

Jade is well on her way, excelling in her studies at North Platte High School, practicing hard work and dedication as a member of the dance team, and further improving her ‘bedside manner’ and people skills through volunteer work across her community.

That last trait is part of what compelled Jade to try something new this year; she’s competing for the title of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

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“I wanted to further my communication skills and gain more self-confidence,” said Jade. “It is my passion to help as many people as I possibly can within my life. One of the amazing things about the MNOT program is that it gives you such an opportunity to help those in need.”

Crowned Miss Harvest Moon Festival’s Outstanding Teen in November, Jade has embraced every service opportunity offered to her.

“My platform is Volun-Teen. It is about promoting teenagers to volunteer so when they get older, it is just a way of life,” said Jade. “I visit patient’s rooms to provide comfort services, I serve food for those in need, and I ring bells for the Salvation Army. You name it, I have done it! I also talk to volunteering organizations about my platform. At elementary schools, I read a story and then we talk about how we can help others, or volunteer, just like the main characters.”

To Jade, volunteering not only makes the world a better place, it is a potential cure for the ills impacting her peers and beyond.

“I believe the greatest issue for my generation would perhaps be technology,” said Jade. “We need to learn how to balance it with the real world. Technology is an amazing tool and has done great things for the world, but we struggle on the line of the technology world and reality. I suggest volunteering! It forces us (in a good way, of course) to look up and get out!”

And as Jade hits the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen stage in Omaha, hoping to win the chance to spread that message statewide, she’ll be cheered on by the woman who’s inspired her to help others throughout her life, crown or not.

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“My female role model is my incredible mom,” said Jade. “She supports me with everything and always tries to make my dreams come true, even if it means sacrifices. I think that is beautiful and I hope I can do that for someone else someday.”

Ironically, Gabby’s biggest cheerleader is also HER mom. Christine Henderson works with me here at Westside, and literally glows with pride every time her hero makes a difference in someone’s life.

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For both Gabby and Jade, that difference may very well be saving lives within a few years. Today, it’s simply making a child smile.. and sending out a smiling adult, grateful for the girl who helped her survive a weak moment.

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To follow Miss Harvest Moon Festival’s Outstanding Teen Jade Vak, click here.

For more information about the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program or to become a contestant, CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook, or CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Twitter. You can also contact Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at KaliNicoleTV@gmail.com.

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Competition takes place April 28 in North Omaha, Nebraska.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Shelby Blundell

NEXT.. Miss Nebraska State Fair Courtney Pelland

 

You Think You Have Time

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I first heard this phrase a few months ago and thought, wow… this is so true. It seems we are always looking ahead and waiting for things to happen; we’ve got vacation circled on the calendar, or are willing the clock to speed up until the weekend begins.  Then, once in a while, we are reminded how quickly time truly flies.

You think you have time.

Here’s an unforgettable reminder of that to all of us from a woman who doesn’t take anything for granted.

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Kayla Hebenstreit and her husband, Joe, should be enjoying this first Christmas with their daughter, Kendall.  Kayla should be in stores, buying every pink tutu and sparkly pair of shoes she can find for that sweet baby girl.  This family should be smiling in every photo they take, just like this one.

Instead, Kayla Hebenstreit spends six days, every two weeks, getting around the clock chemo at the Nebraska Medical Center.  She’s battling cancer FOR THE FOURTH TIME.  One month after her ‘miracle baby’ Kendall was born, doctors told Kayla the cancer was back and she had less than a year to live.

I don’t even know how I would respond to that.  THREE SEPARATE TIMES, Kayla heard the word ‘cancer’, said NO, and beat this terrible disease.  Why, when she and her husband FINALLY got pregnant and had a baby, did this horrible thing, cancer, return?

Click here to watch Kayla’s story with KETV

 The Hebenstreits’ story is one of love and incredible strength.  Every kiss, every laugh means something because they truly know how precious time is.  At a time of year when it’s so easy to get wrapped up in ‘my Christmas cards aren’t done’… ‘how am I going to pay off these holiday bills’… ‘I can’t STAND so-and-so at the Christmas party!’.. this little family will remind you of how lucky so many of us are.

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Thanks to J Sallenbach Photography for the photo

I believe God has a plan for everything.  I believe God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.  But why, WHY do things like this happen to people like Kayla Hebenstreit?  A beautiful woman, who dug deep to fight back so many times.  All she wants is TIME, time to live life with her husband and love her sweet baby girl, not yet three months old.

I don’t know.

I DO know Kayla and her fight have inspired thousands of people, evidence you can plainly see by checking out her website, Kayla’s Crew, and her Facebook page.  1,700 people packed a recent fundraiser to show this family support and to help them cover their costs.  I hope people who see Kayla’s story will have more appreciation for everything they have, as I did leaving our interview.  Most of all, I pray Kayla and Joe Hebenstreit are given a miracle, the only thing they want for Christmas.  TIME.

Paging Dr. Husker

A few years ago, photojournalist Dave Hynek and I chronicled an AMAZING story about a father, donating a kidney to his young son.  We followed their journey from start to finish, including in the moments leading up to the transplant.  We interviewed a very brave Dad as his anesthesiologist inserted his IVs to prepare him for sedation.

You’d think I would’ve learned…

I don’t handle needles well.  Like, I pass out when I see one.  (Really.  It’s not embarrassing AT ALL.)

So here I am, in the surgery preparation area of the Nebraska Medical Center, getting more and more lightheaded, trying to conduct an interview.

Right at the moment I feared I was going to lose my breakfast or crash head first into the floor, I STOOD UP AND LEFT THE ROOM MID-INTERVIEW. Dave finished it for me.  Apparently, it was pretty obvious I was having ‘problems’.  Dave came out of the area laughing, and noted that the anesthesiologist had noticed, too.

‘You know who that was, right?’ Dave asked me.

DR. ROB ZATECHKA.  As in Husker legend turned doctor Rob Zatechka.

REALLY.  Not embarrassing AT ALL.

Clearly, I was not destined for a career in medicine, but a lot of Huskers have been.  ‘Dr. Rob’, Judd Davies, Sean Fisher… and now..

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Dr. Mike Stuntz, Nebraska Free Safety (photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics!)

#16 permanently sealed his place in Nebraska Football history as a freshman, taking part in one of the most memorable plays in recent years.  Nebraska versus Oklahoma in 2001, a key game in Nebraska’s journey to the national title game and Eric Crouch’s to the Heisman trophy.  Out of nowhere in the 4th quarter, Crouch tosses the ball to Thunder Collins, who tosses the ball to Stuntz.  Stuntz, just 18, delivers a rocket to Crouch downfield, who runs for a 63-yard touchdown.  Nebraska beats the #2 team in the country, 20-10.

“I can’t think of one [play] that meant more to our team that I contributed to. I can’t think of one that people talk about with me more often than that one,” Stuntz told me in a recent interview.  “We started practicing it early in the week.  I knew about it, even starting that Monday, I think.  We ran it throughout the week and it never really worked that well in practice.  During the game, they told me even in the first half they were think about running it.  Whey they finally called it, I was a little surprised, it was so late in the game and the game was so close.”

During what many might consider a nerve-rattling moment, Stuntz just ‘played the way he’d always played’.

“It’s almost one of those ‘ignorance is bliss’ things,” said Stuntz.  “I didn’t really realize just how much people cared about Nebraska football, college football in general, how big of a game it was.  You’re just kind of oblivious to all that when you’re 18 years old.”

You want to talk nerves, imagine this: HOLDING YOUR NEWBORN DAUGHTER FOR THE FIRST TIME.

Dads, do you remember that moment?  Mike Stuntz does; it just happened a month ago when he and wife Natalie welcomed their first child, Blakely Autumn.

“I knew what I was doing on that play, I played football all the time. I’d never been a dad before,” said Stuntz.  “So that was, definitely, without a question, more nerve wracking, the first time I saw Blakely.”

“He did use the football hold, though!” added Natalie with a smile.

Stuntz doesn’t just know football, he was pretty darn good at it.  An incredibly versatile player, Stuntz saw time at free safety, split end, and reserve quarterback at Nebraska.  Off the field, Stuntz also excelled in the classroom, a 9-time Academic Honor Roll member in the Big 12 and a 2005 First-Team Academic All-Big 12 student.  His college major also attracted attention; Stuntz earned his degree in professional golf management.

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This photo shows Stuntz golfing Lilongwe Golf Club in Malawi in 2011, his former career colliding with new.  See, Stuntz told me he loved golf, but didn’t know if he had passion to pursue it for 40+ years.  He discovered a new passion: medicine.

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Natalie Stuntz is also a doctor, a pediatrician with CHI Health.  Mike is in his first year of residency at the Nebraska Medical Center, specializing in ophthalmology.  The two didn’t meet in medical circles, but certainly have A LOT in common professionally now, including the summer they spent together in Africa working at a Pediatric AIDS hospital.

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They even found a Husker fan, thousands of miles away!

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THAT is pretty normal for Dr. Mike Stuntz, still recognized nine years after hanging up his cleats, 13 years after that legendary play.

“I’ll be in the hospital or in the clinic or something like that, and it’ll be a patient and they’ll just say ‘aren’t you that guy?'” said Stuntz.  “It happens much more often than I thought it would.  I always enjoy talking about it.”

ESPECIALLY with his biggest fan.  Miss Blakey is also his smallest.

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“I come downstairs, and whether she’s awake or not she comes with me.  We sit on the couch right here, we turn on the TV and we don’t move for the next 12 hours or so,” said Stuntz.  “I’m pretty sure she’s very engrossed in the games, and then afterwards we have a nice group discussion about it.  Her input is limited, but it’s growing.”

Stuntz’s message for today’s players is about the bigger world outside of football.  Even when he bumps into his former teammates Dr. Judd Davies or Dr. Kyle Ringenberg, they talk about research and their goals in the hospital now, not what they used to be on the field.

And when Dr. Stuntz, Dr. Stuntz, and Lil Stuntz are at home, the focus is on family.

“I want to be Mom and Dad,” said Natalie.  “When we’re at home, we leave work.  We’re Mom and Dad, Mike and Natalie, and I want that for her.”

And when that little beauty opens up her gorgeous blue eyes to gaze up at her mom and dad, it’s easy to see why.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH KETV’S THROWBACK THURSDAY FEATURE ON MIKE STUNTZ!

For more on #16 Mike Stuntz check out his bio with Nebraska Athletics.

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Click here to Throwback to the Class of 2003, Brett Lindstrom!

Next week, A SPECIAL FINALE of the 2014 Throwback Thursday Series, Coach Milt Tenopir!