Tag Archives: Children’s Hospital

Healing By Design

December 20, 2016 by
Photography by Contributed

“She’s an inspiration for women everywhere because she has always wanted to do something to better the world.”

– N. Brito Mutanayagam, Ph.D.

Is it possible for design, function, color, texture, light, artwork, botanicals, and aroma—things that form an indoor environment—to heal a person? Aneetha (pronounced “Anita”) McLellan believes they can, and do. She strives to use her gifts as an interior architect to advance the premise; in the process, McLellan has helped revolutionize the way people “see” health care.

The award-winning, highly sought-after interior innovator heads the health care division of DLR Group, the architectural and engineering firm she joined in early 2016. She guides a team of architects, landscape designers, civil engineers, and electrical engineers in designing medical facilities, from sprawling hospitals to smaller clinics and rehab centers.

“I’m an interior designer, but I impact the exterior architecture in every way,” McLellan explains. “The experience a person has walking from the parking lot to the front door and then into the building is a big deal to me.”

As the model of health care moves away from the intimidating sterile corridors of huge hospitals to the more intimate spaces of outpatient wellness clinics, McLellan’s signature interiors share a basic template. They offer wide open spaces, clean lines, minimal clutter, peaceful outdoor views, and lots of natural light.

Her work spans the globe, but examples of her unique vision punctuate the landscape in Omaha, her home base.

“I cut my teeth on Children’s Hospital. It was my first big project,” says McLellan, who began her career with Omaha’s HDR. “It won Hospital of the Year in 2000,” she says, still amazed at the buzz created by the window-rich building at 84th and Dodge streets.

She incorporated the same open, airy, and stunning effect of glass into Methodist Women’s Hospital off 192nd Street. During her 19 years at HDR, the accolades accumulated.

More recently, with DLR Group, McLellan proudly attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital’s new state-of-the-art facility near Village Pointe, which features a more traditional brick-and-mortar look. She worked closely with Madonna to create a decidedly warm, homey feel with large resident rooms and a meticulously landscaped therapy garden, an “oasis of healing.”

Light seems to surround McLellan, a light generated by the passion this tiny dynamo displays for her profession, family, and heritage. The only child of an Indian father and a mother from Sri Lanka, McLellan grew up in Lincoln. She graduated from Pius X High School and earned an architecture degree in 1997 from the University of Nebraska, where her father taught community and regional planning for many years.

“She was a go-getter from the time she was a little girl, and I knew she was destined for greatness,” says N. Brito Mutunayagam, Ph.D., clearly proud of his daughter. “She’s an inspiration for women everywhere because she has always wanted to do something to better the world.”

At home in Omaha, McLellan’s world revolves around her 9-year-old daughter and her husband, Jim McLellan, an electrical engineer she met on an early HDR project. The two now work together at DLR. “I don’t know what it’s like not to work with him,” she laughs, clearly grateful for his unwavering support of her career, which has her traveling at least once a week. “He’s always there for our daughter,” she says. “He was meant to be a father.”

And, it could be argued, she was meant to heal through design.

Visit dlrgroup.com for more information.

aneetha1

After Cancer and High School

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

A small sigh of hopelessness escaped Ema Johanning’s lips as she looked up at the daunting steps of Bellevue West High School. Pain radiated down her left leg. It felt like someone had driven a screwdriver in the socket where it met her pelvic bone, twisting and twisting with each step.

Don’t worry about it, Ema’s doctors said. It’s just growing pains, an overemotional teenager trying to get attention, or just all in her head.

Ema could not escape the savage nightmarish monster that haunted her. Exhausted, dehydrated, and malnourished, Ema soon lost nearly 30 pounds. She threw up almost daily—all because of her agonizing leg.

Nikki Johanning, her mother and a former CNA, knew something was not right. Pills, fluids, and six visits to the ER did nothing to diminish the pain.

“Can you please admit my daughter. I can’t physically take care of her anymore,” Johanning tearfully begged doctors at yet another ER visit at Children’s Hospital. Ema could no longer walk and used a wheelchair just to get from the couch to the bathroom. In addition, Johanning had Ema’s three siblings to take care of at home, an exhausted husband who would sometimes have to stay up at night with Ema only to work the next day, and no family in the area to help out.

Ema-Johanning-1“I never took ‘no’ for an answer,” Johanning recalls. “If we sat back and waited, I don’t know if Ema would be here.”

Ema was admitted for pain control and underwent further tests.

Ema woke up groggy from medication. She heard her mother sobbing as she held Ema’s hand. It was one of the few times Ema had ever seen her cry.

“What’s wrong? Mom, tell me.”

Cancer. Ewing’s scarocoma. Malignant.

Ema felt like she had the wind knocked out of her. She barely heard her mother. The blinds were drawn tight. Even the smallest sliver of sunshine hurt, but there in the darkness of the room, Ema felt a hazy sense of relief rush through her.

“At least it’s not in my head,” she said as she hugged her mom. “We are going to beat this, and I’m going to be fine.”

Ewing’s sarcoma is a type of rare bone cancer that affects children or young adults like Ema and can be difficult to diagnose. It typically begins in the legs and hips, but can develop in other areas.

“It was my 16th birthday present,” Ema says now with a small, sad smile. Ema cancelled her sweet 16 birthday bash scheduled for later that week.

According to St. Jude’s Research Hospital, there is only a 56 percent survival rate for those aged 15 to 19. So while most of her friends were worried about homework, boys, or parties, Ema would have an IV attached to her arm full of chemotherapy.

It was an aggressive plan to attack the cancer hard and fast: three days of the “red devil” through a circular port in the hospital, and then two weeks at home depending on blood counts. If her counts rebounded, she would have another five days of treatment. This lasted a year from February until the end of May.

Ema would need a partial hip replacement and undergo physical therapy as well in June.

Johanning placed throw up buckets around the house. Her vomit was so hazardous that even a single splash burned her mother’s foot. Even Ema’s tough military father became squeamish.

But it really hit home when Ema lost her hair.

“The magic went away,” her mother says.

As Ema watched her locks of dark hair fall, so did her innocence. The reality seemed to weigh heavily on her teenage shoulders. She could no longer blend in with the crowd and lost her identity. All her future aspirations seemed to waver in the harsh light of her newly shaved head.

“The hardest part for me and her dad is you teach them to be the best people they can be, then watch that poison drip down into your child,” Johanning says. Her mother could not throw on a Band-Aid or kiss away the pain.

“I’d be lost without mom. She was my rock…my best friend,” Ema says.

In the oncology wing at Children’s Hospital, Ema gained strength from Nurse Anisa Hoie.

Ema-Johanning-2

“Don’t you feel like you belong here with a bunch of baldies all in one room?” Hoie asked her. Ema started laughing, the first time in her long cancerous journey.

She saw little kids playing games and suddenly realized she shouldn’t be feeling sorry for herself.

“Who am I to say my life isn’t worth fighting for,” Ema vents.

That teenage invulnerability though, that feeling of being untouchable by death, was gone.

“Cancer is like taking the most likable part of yourself and having to say good-bye to it because it’s killing you,” Ema says.

She attended her junior prom with just a smattering of brown hair with a flower tucked behind her ear, smiling in one picture with her two friends.

“I rocked that dress,” Ema says laughing. It was, of course, purple. Ema believes this is her “soul color,” universal for cancer survivors.

Now in remission, she finally feels free. The 20-year-old Ema shows off a tattoo on her shoulder: a heart with an owl and the cancer ribbon inside and “Forever Strong” etched on the outside. Her mother, grandmother, and other family members tatted up with “Believe” in support.

Her black hair has grown back—thicker and curlier than before. A puckered long scar travels up her left thigh. Ema was self-conscious of it at first, but now takes pride in the reminder. She is alive.

“A friend said to me, ‘The only one happier to see it than you and your mom is me,’” Ema says in a voice thick with tears.

Ema missed most of her sophomore and junior years of high school, yet she continued doing her coursework from home, despite short term memory issues and other side effects that still plague her. Ema graduated in May 2015. When she walked down the aisle Ema unzipped her graduate gown to proudly display the tank top underneath emblazoned proudly with “Suck it Cancer.”

“Everyone thought I flashed,” Ema says giggling at the memory. “My friends said, ‘you didn’t do what I think you did, did you?’”

College for Ema meant not only worrying about classes, but how to negotiate the small pharmacy (22 medications) she took with her to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the fall. 

“We didn’t know if she would live or die, and now she is going to college—it’s amazing,” Johanning says.

Ema is hoping to sky-dive with her father at the five-year mark. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate is 70 percent for a tumor that has not spread, but only 15 to 30 percent if it has metastasized.

In the meantime, it is the little things in life Ema appreciates the most.

“I look at me still being here as a second chance at life,” Ema says. FamilyGuide

Jesse Wilson

July 27, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article appears in 2015 August Her Family.

Four-year old Jesse Wilson is like most boys his age. He loves Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and McDonald’s French fries. But one thing sets him apart.

In his short life, he has undergone 20 surgeries to help correct the birth defect hypospadias. It means that his urethra is in the wrong spot. Normally, this type of defect is fixed through surgery, but Jesse’s case is rare.

Jesse’s skin heals too quickly, subsequently undoing the work of each surgery. “If he didn’t heal in a way that he does, it would have been fixed a really long time ago,” says his mother, Jill Wilson.

In the year Jesse was 2, he had surgery once a month. It’s hard to imagine. “He has been a champion. He bounces back so quickly and he handles it. He’ll just sit there and let the doctors do their thing,” Wilson says.

They have strong support from family and friends. “My mom has never missed a surgery. She’s always there.” Wilson is thankful for the prayers from her mom’s friends on Jesse’s behalf. “I love hearing that and I appreciate every single one of them.”

He was also born eight weeks early, so he spent some time in the neonatal intensive care unit at Methodist Women’s Hospital in Omaha.

He has had two full reconstructive surgeries. Out of 20 surgeries, the majority of them were an attempt to correct his hypospadias, while others were for different issues. “A lot of them were just attempts to keep his urethra open,” she says.

“Luckily, the nurses and doctors at Children’s Hospital are phenomenal. Everybody has made him feel really comfortable.”

They are continuing the search for a solution and are in Texas this month for a surgery with one of the nation’s pioneering pediatric urologists, Dr. Warren Snodgrass of the Forest Park Medical Center. Snodgrass is responsible for creating a new method for hypospadias repair that has become the most widely used operation for this condition.

“The doctor said that he’s never had a child that has scarred the way that Jesse does, and so he’s hoping that when he does the surgery, he won’t. But there are no promises,” Wilson says. They will travel with his dad, James Wilson. Jocelyn, 20-months-old, will stay home with grandma.

Jesse has a favorite stuffed giraffe he takes with him to the hospital each surgery. Gradually, his giraffe was joined by an army of bears that he earned one by one from the hospital after each surgery. “He has an extensive collection and those were always his favorite to cuddle with after he got out.”

Meanwhile, Jesse, the continual fighter, is singing his way through the days. “He always sings. He loves ‘The Wheels on the Bus.’ Anything he hears, he repeats and he sings it,” Wilson says.

JesseWilson

Breakfast Banana Bread

February 13, 2014 by

Don’t throw away those mushy bananas. Very ripe bananas are just what you need for this banana bread recipe. Wrap individual slices for a quick breakfast or healthy snack.

Ingredients (Yield: 14 servings)

  • ½ cup (1 stick) margarine, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup fat-free sour cream
  • 1 cup mashed, very ripe bananas
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly coat a 9×5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
  2. With a hand mixer, beat margarine and sugar in a bowl until creamy.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat about 3 to 5 minutes until light and fluffy.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the margarine mixture and mix until just combined.
  5. Add vanilla, sour cream, and bananas; mix to combine. Stir in nuts, if using. Pour into prepared pan.
  6. Bake about 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let rest in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then turn out onto rack to cool completely.

Nutrition Facts
Calories: 171
Fat: 6g
Saturated Fat: 2g
Cholesterol: 16mg
Sodium: 245mg
Carbohydrates: 29g
Fiber: 2g
Protein: 3g

*Nutritional information is based on ingredients listed and serving size; any additions or substitutions to ingredients may alter the recipe’s nutritional content.

For more healthy recipes, visit HealthyKohlsKids.com. The Healthy Kohl’s Kids program is a partnership between Children’s Hospital & Medical Center and Kohl’s Department Stores to educate children and parents about healthy nutrition and fitness.

Cole Rollins’ Blanket Parties

January 7, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Kristy Rollins hands the phone to Cole almost immediately. It’s still a little tough for her talk about the blankets.

Cole is 10. He’s in fifth grade at Pine Creek Elementary, and he’s chatty on the phone. “We have a huge, big party,” he says, “where we make the blankets, and then we go give them to the kids at Children’s Hospital. They’re the kind you cut out and tie together.”

“Everyone brings their own fleece,” Kristy says. “Cole calls them parties.”

“People are upstairs and downstairs and all over, and everyone’s making them,” Cole says.

“It’s a big day,” his mom adds.

This year, about 20 people helped him put together 70 fleece blankets for the hospital. That’s a considerable increase from his first blanket party three years ago, when six friends came to help him make 19 blankets.

Cole was seven then. His little sister, Mallory, was three and receiving monthly infusions at Children’s to combat opsoclonus-myoclonus syndrome (OMS). “My sister came home with a couple fleece blankets from the hospital,” Cole says.

“He said he wanted to give blankets back to the hospital where Mallory got hers,” Kristy says. “The blankets mean so much to her. She treasures them. So we know that these kids treasure these. It’s a keepsake. Mallory has at least three.”

“My first one I gave to an older boy,” Cole remembers. “It was a John Deere blanket.” His favorite fleece patterns, he says, are camouflage and anything outdoorsy.

“Lots of kids still bring their blankets [to infusion],” Kristy says. “We’ll see them around.”

“I want to make a blanket for one of Mallory’s infusion friends,” Cole says. “It’s one of her friends that gets infusion at the same time, Lily. She wants a Justin Bieber fleece, but I can’t find any.”

Kristy says that, for the kids who make the blankets, the best part is hand-delivering them to the hospital. “The kids love giving them out in the lobby,” she says. “They love personally giving them.”

Speaking of giving, the 2013 holiday season marked the first annual Cole Cares Christmas—Cole partnered with a company, DirectCall of Air Methods, to run a gift donation for Children’s. “This is what he wanted to do next,” Kristy says.

But he’ll still be hosting his blanket parties.

The goal for 2014?

One hundred blankets.

Boxes of Cheer

January 5, 2014 by
Photography by Justin Barnes

Northwestern Mutual employees recently teamed with the Children’s Hospital & Medical Center Foundation to deliver 170 boxes of cheer to children suffering from cancer and other ailments.

“Look, Mom, it’s a glow sword!” 5-year-old Sammy Nahorny chirps as he digs through a bright green Cheeriodicals box packed to the brim with smile-inducing toys, crafts, and more. Sammy, who lives in Columbus, is battling neuroblastoma.

His mother, Erin, is the recipient of her own Cheeriodicals box, this one loaded with reading materials (including Omaha Magazine and HerFamily) along with other grown-up goodies. “We haven’t seen a smile like that on Sammy’s face in three or four days.” She beams as her son shifts his attention to adorning his fingers with light rings and laser talons. “Whoever came up with this idea is a genius,” she adds. “What a fabulous boost it is to have you here doing this for Sammy.”

IMG_9139

Cheeriodicals is a web-based company offering a wide array of customizable gift boxes for all seasons and reasons. The boxes delivered that day were carefully curated so that each child would receive age- and gender-specific surprises. Two Men and a Truck donated its time and people to transport the treasures to the hospital.

“This was a wonderful event that brought our team together to help give back to the community and spend time with so many special children and their families at Children’s Hospital,” says Michael Tews, managing partner of Northwestern Mutual of Nebraska. “We were honored to have the opportunity to bring a smile to so many families.”

“It was amazing that Northwestern Mutual could join us in this way,” says Alyssa DeFrain, development officer of the Foundation. “We could tell they had a great time getting to know our young patients, but what they didn’t get to see was that those little green boxes continued to bring big cheer to the kids and families for many days after the event.”

Turkey Soup

November 26, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It’s the perfect way to warm up on a chilly day. Try this easy turkey soup that can also add a welcome, new twist to Thanksgiving leftovers.

For more healthy recipes, visit HealthyKohlsKids.com. The Healthy Kohl’s Kids program is a partnership between Children’s Hospital & Medical Center and Kohl’s Department Stores to educate children and parents about healthy nutrition and fitness.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup diced carrot
  • ½ cup diced celery
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, with liquid
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 can (15 oz) great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups (about 16 ounces) cubed cooked turkey
  • ½ cup cubed zucchini
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley

Preparation

  1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until softened, about 4 minutes.
  2. Stir in carrot, celery, pepper, oregano, and basil. Cover and cook over low heat for 5 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes with their liquid, water, broth, beans, and turkey and stir. Cover saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
  4. Add zucchini and parsley and cook until zucchini is cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes. Serve.

Yield: 8 servings

 

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 165, Fat: 2g, Saturated Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 47mg, Sodium: 528mg, Carbohydrates: 14g, Fiber: 4g, Protein: 21g

* Nutritional information is based on ingredients listed and serving size; any additions or substitutions to ingredients may alter the recipe’s 
nutritional content.

Young Hero: Audrey Hansen

June 20, 2013 by

Friendly, caring, and determined Audrey Hansen, 18, recently graduated from Bennington Jr./Sr. High School where she played volleyball for four years. She loves to socialize with friends and meet new people.

Although she has faced plenty of challenges with her cerebral palsy, nothing has stopped Audrey from helping others.

For her senior project, she raised money to purchase a kangaroo chair for UNMC’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). “It all started when I heard on the radio about Children’s Hospital here in Omaha having a radio-thon for kangaroo chairs that are priced at $1,500.”

The kangaroo chair that Audrey’s project helped purchase allows a mother and her premature newborn to interact through close, comfortable, skin-to-skin contact when the newborn can’t leave the hospital.

Audrey says she chose to raise money to benefit premature infants and their mothers because she, herself, was born premature, weighing only 1lb. 7oz. “I was born at 24 weeks of gestation—or at six months of pregnancy…All my family could do at that time was touch me, but it was very limited touching because I burned a lot of calories necessary for growth and weight gain.”

“She has a soft spot for anybody else with a disability. She’s such a sweet girl.” – Denise Heppner, Audrey’s mom

When Audrey’s mom, Denise Heppner, was finally able to hold her, she was a little over a month old. “It was called a ‘kangaroo hold,’” Audrey explains. “This is a skin-to-skin contact next to the chest that provides warmth and a heartbeat connection. It has been proven that a more rapid weight gain is observed through kangaroo care.”

Heppner is not surprised at all that her daughter wants to help people. “She has a soft spot for anybody else with a disability,” she says. “She’s such a sweet girl.” She says that Audrey even comes to Pine Creek Elementary in Bennington—where Heppner is a secretary—to read to the children because she loves being around kids.

Audrey inspires her mom on a daily basis because “she doesn’t look for a way out, and she doesn’t use her disability as a crutch.” Above all, Audrey has taught Heppner to be a better listener for people who need to be heard. “Just giving five minutes of your time is enough. The time that you can share is valuable because it always means a lot to someone, and she’s shown me that.”

As for Audrey’s future, she plans to attend Metropolitan Community College in the fall. “I want to have a college degree and a well-paying job that I enjoy doing,” she says of her goals. “I always want to keep pace with others my age in spite of having cerebral palsy.”