Tag Archives: health

Curing Cancer One Machine At a Time

July 26, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Driving down Leavenworth or Dodge streets, the average person might see the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, located on the UNMC/Nebraska Medicine campus, as something of a museum because of its notable artwork and architecture. 

It is also vital to note the advanced medical technology used to detect and treat cancer at UNMC/Nebraska Medicine. 

Mihaela Girbacica is a registered nurse who works directly with cancer patients every day and depends on smoothly functioning tech to do her job.

“I sit next to a patient one-on-one for their entire treatment,” Girbacica says. “We become like a family. I bond with them, I know what makes them comfortable and [feel] taken care of when they are with us, and when things go well, I’m so happy to be there for that, too.”

Having a support network (or favorite nurse) is a key facet to fighting the cancer battle, but finding and targeting cancerous tumors is at the forefront of fighting the war. 

Dr. Chad LaGrange demonstrates an MRI Ultrasound Fusion Biopsy

Dr. Chad LaGrange, a urologist with the cancer center, has helped to revolutionize the discovery of prostate cancers by using an MRI Ultrasound Fusion Biopsy. Essentially, this procedure, which takes place at Nebraska Medicine’s Lauritzen Outpatient Center, blends the technology of an ultrasound and MRI by combining one image with another, overlaid, image to fuse into a 3-D view.

LaGrange says this tool allows technicians to view a clearer image of the area they must work on to remove all of the cancer. The fusion biopsies also remove needless worry and unwarranted medical procedures if patients are not diagnosed with life-threatening cancers.

“It’s been a night-to-day difference,” LaGrange says. “Patients will come into our office to find out that their regular biopsies didn’t tell the whole story. Our equipment ensures that part of the major diagnosis doesn’t go missed.” 

While this computer-aided detection has been used for mammography and breast cancer screenings for years, its assistance in prostate cancer detection has reimagined—and reimaged—the way doctors analyze potential deadly lesions. 

From easily treatable small cancers to aggressive life-threatening cancers, the next step can often lead to radiation and chemotherapy treatment.

Dr. Charles Enke, chair of Radiation Oncology, regularly uses the department’s Varian True Beam Linear Accelerator, a radiation device that delivers treatment to patients 75 percent faster than any other previous piece of tech used at Nebraska Medicine. 

“We’ve gotten up to seeing 115 patients in one day because of this much more elegant system,” Enke says. “The delivery time for this kind of treatment has decreased from 18 minutes to about three, meaning we have the ability to treat more patients with less machines.”

The Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center is home to three of these machines, which Enke says has increased the speed and quality of most radiation plans. Treatment has transformed from a six-week plan to five simple treatments, maintaining a Nebraska Medicine culture of patient-centered care. 

Enke also has the ability to work from home using the machine’s remote system. This makes room for peace, quiet, and well-rested research, resulting in an environment where work done in the office directly affects patients. 

People often assume a cure for cancer will be a revelation; a singular miracle. However, that in-office work, albeit common and routine, is what will bring further knowledge to the professionals. Curing cancer is a daily goal, comprised of small and strong steps, increased technological advancements, and a medical team ready to work. 


To learn more, visit nebraskamed.com.

This article was printed in the August/September 2018 edition of B2B.

A Varian True Beam Linear Accelerator at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center

Whispering Roots Takes Root

July 10, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The Highlander Village on North 30th Street between Lake and Cuming is a dramatic new development meant to revitalize the depressed neighborhood surrounding it. The center of this community (planned by 75 North Revitalization Corp.) is the Accelerator. The 65,000 square foot, Z-shaped building serves as a Creighton University and Metropolitan Community College-led health-education hub. An event venue and a ground floor coffee shop will be joined by established eateries and entrepreneurial startups. 

But what most grabs the eye is the Accelerator’s futuristic-looking urban agriculture facility for nonprofit tenant Whispering Roots. A see-through greenhouse sits majestically atop floors dedicated to education and production—all centered on aquaculture, aquaponics, and hydroponic growing. As Whispering Roots founder and executive director Greg Fripp explains, nearly everything at the $4.2 million, 18,000-square-foot green site is designed for the next generation. Like the rest of Highlander, he says the custom design and construction, plus elevated location, are meant to raise people’s expectations in a high-poverty environment.

Slated to open by late summer, the facility is built on years of seeds sown by Fripp and company in inner-city public schools and neighborhoods. Whispering Roots teaches students how to build and maintain aquaculture systems that grow fish—tilapia or steelhead trout—for consumption. Fish waste is used to fertilize crops grown in the same system. The closed system’s water is naturally cleaned and recirculated. Floating raft crop, drip irrigation, and raised bed techniques are taught. 

The new digs will allow Whispering Roots to expand learning opportunities for youth and adults around organic agriculture, healthy cooking, and nutrition. It will refer participants in need of human and social services to on-site partners.

“We focus on growing, feeding, and educating,” Fripp says. “We’re touching different aspects of the community to address where the gaps are. By working with different folks and actually being out in the community and listening to the feedback—what’s working, what’s not working—it allowed us to design a facility that meets the needs of the community.”

Fripp says residents of the community have said they need more locally produced food, hands-on experiential learning, and STEM education, “and that’s what we do.”

To help address the community’s lack of access to fresh, local healthy food, Whispering Roots will sell the fish and vegetable crops it harvests on-site at farmers markets and select stores and to neighboring Accelerator food purveyors. 

Fripp sees this as just the start.

“The model is what matters—the techniques and how we build them and improve them in underserved communities—and then taking that model and replicating it at whatever scale makes sense for a community,” he says. “Where a lot of people make mistakes is they try to force a model and scale in a community that’s not ready to deal with it. The community’s overwhelmed.”

Fripp’s interest in urban ag and aquaculture goes back 20-plus years, to high school. After a U.S. Navy logistics career, he worked in the corporate world. He left an executive human resources position at TD Ameritrade in Omaha to follow his real passion full time.

He founded Whispering Roots in his home garage and basement lab with his own savings, and in less than a decade it’s now supported by major philanthropic players such as the Sherwood, Weitz Family, and Suzanne and Walter Scott foundations.

Funders bought into his vision, allowing it to ramp-up from micro to mega level. In learning to build and operate aquaculture systems, grow, harvest, package, market, and sell food, students will acquire portable skills.

Whispering Roots already has a presence as far away as Haiti and Madagascar and as near as Iowa and Missouri. It’s currently building a facility in Macy, Nebraska.

On the planning table is a full-scale commercial production facility that would supply food in quantity and create jobs.

“We not only want to replicate what we’re doing here but also to do economic development by developing this pipeline of kids and adults from the community who can then work in or run those facilities,” Fripp says.

Fripp and his team are much in demand as consultants.

“We’ve become subject matter experts for other communities that would like to do the same around the country. We have people calling from Kansas City, Minneapolis, wondering how we’re pulling this off in Omaha,” he says, adding that the model is what’s interesting to them. It challenges the way people view urban agriculture, hands-on experiential learning, and STEM in underserved and impoverished communities.

“We’ve been able to navigate government and policies and work on the community side, in schools, and to figure out how all these pieces work together,” he says.

From concept to completion, he says, “One of the biggest challenges is helping people understand the vision because it’s so new. When I started my organization in 2011 and said we’re going to put fish and plants in classrooms to teach kids about science, people thought that was crazy. They said, ‘It’s never going to work, kids aren’t going to be interested.’ Now our problem is we don’t have enough bandwidth to handle all the requests we get from the schools. But when I started, no one believed this was even possible.” 

Even after capturing the attention of kids—who started winning science fairs—and making converts of educators, he says, “In talking about where we were going to build our new facility, we had people questioning why we wanted to go into the inner city and offering us free land to build in rural areas. But the goal was to do it in an underserved community to prove it’s possible to go into the toughest areas, build this thing, and show it can work. That’s not easy because you run into a lot of roadblocks. There’s a lot of preconceived notions about what education looks like in an underserved community, what people will tolerate, what will work. What we’re trying to do is change that view.”

On a recent tour of the new Omaha facility, a woman who resides nearby told Fripp, “I’m glad that you are here. This is close to my heart. It needed to be here. This is such a beautiful and good thing that the community will protect you.”

“That feedback,” he says, “tells me we’re on the right path. The key is that you are a part of the community so that people feel like they have ownership—this is their resource. That’s what we want. We want that community base. If it’s just a community place and there’s no connect, people don’t care. They’re like, ‘That’s not ours anyway.’ But if it’s community-based, then, ‘It’s ours.’”

Part of that buy-in, he says, is “trying to build our own pathway and network of students who then become the experts who teach and train.” The goal is creating self-sufficiency so that communities can feed themselves. 

Having an African-American at the head of it all is a powerful symbol.

“When intersecting with the African-American community, students need to see people who look like them doing this work,” Fripp says. “Then they can internalize it by saying, ‘Me, too.’ They need to know this is a goal that is achievable.”


Visit whisperingroots.org for more information

This article was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. 

Greg Fripp teaches aquaculture, aquaponics, and hydroponic skills to the next generation.

Kids Otter Know

June 10, 2018 by
Photography by provided

Summer camps with swimming activities will certainly have safety practices in place, but parents should take steps ahead of time to help their children be safer in and around pools and lakes. According to Tracy Stratman, recreation manager for the City of Omaha Parks and Recreation Department, water safety begins before anyone enters the water.

“You don’t even have to be by a body of water; you learn about the dangers and how to be responsible in and around water,” she says. “Water safety should be taught as the child grows like any other safety discussion we have with our children.”

Stratman recommends that families review pool regulations and swimming rules, including such particulars as depth boundaries, the distance between the child and an adult, and which fixtures (i.e., diving boards, slides, fountains) are permitted, along with the appropriate activities for each.

Formal water safety instruction offered by the city and other sources emphasizes rules. Jenny Holweger, YMCA of Greater Omaha’s vice president of program development, says that YMCA water safety and swim lessons have recently been modified, including stronger emphasis on out-of-pool guidelines that also promote safety.

“We’ve decided we should be intentional about teaching things like asking permission from an adult to get into the water and other fundamentals,” she says. “We have been teaching kids to swim for 175 years; it evolves over time. We always concentrated on personal safety and rescue skills, but the water safety skills we have honed in on for participants now are very practical. And they’re things all kids, all adults—everyone—should know.”

Another important concept for parents to practice, and teach, is respect for others in any public swimming facility or beach. That can mean taking turns on slides and diving boards; not shoving, splashing, or dunking other children; and even curbing exuberant shrieking and yelling.

“It’s just being cognizant of those who are around you,” Holweger says. “Just being aware of your surroundings and who else is in that space, and being polite and courteous.”

“Kids are all out for fun,” Stratman says. “But I do think most people use common sense and etiquette, and respect shared facilities and use them properly—just realize there are other people using them as well. You don’t want to impede on anyone’s enjoyment, and you don’t want them impeding on yours. It’s everybody’s space.”

Basic instruction should start when children are introduced to water, Holweger says. The YMCA even offers parent-and-child classes for families with children as young as six months old. These classes emphasize fun and safety. The City of Omaha provides similar classes along with Josh the Otter Water Safety & Awareness program and Float 4 Life training.

Traditional swim lessons are suitable for children over age 3 and focus on more advanced activities like strokes, breathing techniques, and rescue skills.

Even older inexperienced or marginal swimmers can learn survival techniques like “swim-float-swim” or “jump-push-turn-grab,” Holweger says. And non-swimmers can benefit from basic safety instruction, too.“ You do not have to be a water enthusiast.”

Many of the same rules and principles that make public pools more enjoyable also apply to spraygrounds, Stratman says. Adults should insist on respectful behavior like taking turns and forbid roughhousing. And safety is still an issue. “Even though there’s no standing water, there’s still risk.” Running can lead to falls, for instance. On hot summer days, the pavement of parking lots or walking paths leading to spraygrounds can burn bare feet.

Adults can also help protect children in and around water by being safe themselves, Stratman says.

“Adults need to be responsible around the water and be a good role model when it comes to water safety,” she says. “Saying ‘I know how to swim so I don’t need to wear a life jacket when I’m on a boat’ would be like saying, ‘I’m a good driver so I don’t need to wear a seat belt.’ Accidents happen.”

Teaching good safety practices and respect for others “makes being around water fun and enjoyable,” Holweger says. The learning experience can be fun, too, Stratman adds.

“We really encourage parents to be active swimmers with their children,” she says. “A pool or a sprayground is a perfect opportunity for a parent to engage with their child and play with them.”

Out of all the precautions adults—even young adults like camp counselors—can take to keep children safer in and around water, one rises above the rest.

“Adults should know that supervision is the No. 1 thing they can do to protect their kids around the water,” Holweger says.

“You cannot substitute adult supervision,” Stratman says. “[Adults] need to supervise children and watch and be vigilant.”


Visit parks.cityofomaha.org or metroymca.org for more information.

This article was originally printed in the Spring/Summer 2018 edition of Family Guide.

Ultramarathoner Kaci Lickteig

May 24, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

There are runners. There are ultrarunners. And then there’s Kaci Lickteig.

Nicknamed “the Pixie Ninja” by her friends, Lickteig has earned her place among the most competitive ultrarunners in the world. Ultrarunning is the sport of racing distances beyond 26.2 miles, the length of a marathon. Typical distances include 50 kilometers (31.07 miles), 50 miles, and 100 miles. Lickteig has won some of the most grueling races in the sport, including the Western States 100-Miler. For that win, she set the third-fastest time in the race’s 40-plus-year history, 17:57:59.

Her passion for the sport and mental toughness is part gift, part curse. Fatigue won’t slow her; cracked ribs won’t stop her. But in October 2017, she faced an injury that she could not ignore: two stress fractures in her pelvis.

She’s still working toward a full recovery with the help of fellow runner Christy Nielsen. Nielsen is a physical therapist specializing in runners and endurance athletes. Nielsen and Lickteig became friends at the start of Lickteig’s running career. Together, they’re working on returning her to the sport at which she excels.

Lickteig wasn’t a natural with running. Growing up in the small town of Dannebrog, Nebraska, she couldn’t finish her first race in high school without walking. But, training alongside her mom, running became fun. And eventually, it became a lifestyle.

She ran marathons in college, and following graduation in 2012, she ran her first ultramarathon, a 50-kilometer trail run. She won. Her next race was a 100-miler. With encouragement from Nielsen, Lickteig qualified for the Olympic Trials Marathons. Hiring coach Jason Koop in 2014 helped propel her to elite status in ultras. In 2016, UltraRunning Magazine named her the Female Ultrarunner of the Year for winning seven races, beating all runners—male and female—in three of them.

Miguel Ordorica became Lickteig’s running partner around the time she started her ultrarunning. Ordorica recalls a marathon-distance training run with Lickteig nearly five years ago, when she fell and cracked some ribs at mile seven. She kept going, finishing the final 19 miles.

“She’s different from most runners,” he says. “She really doesn’t stop. Most runners stop for bottles of water or to chat.”

That nonstop drive caught up to her in 2017 at the GOATz 50K at Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa. The signs of an injury were present at the start of the race: pain in her knee and groin, tightness in her back, and soreness in her hip flexors. She popped some Aleve and thought, “It’s only 30 miles.”

Usually 30 miles would be easy for her, but she wasn’t adequately rested. She’d barely allowed herself recovery time from running the Western States 100-mile race in June before she started training again. Her body was exhausted.

She was leading the women runners with a half-mile left in the race when there was a gut-wrenching pop, something she describes as feeling almost like a muscle popping off bone. A physical therapist herself, she had no idea what she did to her body, but she could barely walk.

Two days later, it was confirmed: Lickteig had two stress fractures in her pelvis, along with an assortment of other injuries. Stress fractures, especially in the lower extremities, are common for distance runners, as are knee and Achilles tendon injuries. A stress fracture like hers was rare.

“Tensile fractures are something only 2 percent of [the] population gets,” Nielsen explains. “The combo of her back being tight and her knees being so swollen, something had to give. It was her pelvis.”

She knows first-hand about the pressure athletes put on themselves. Truly trained athletes, she says, have a hard time listening to their bodies and taking a day off. She was that kind of runner, racing competitively for more than two decades and qualifying for three Olympics Trials.

“It only took me 20 years to tell the difference from being over-trained and being tired from a workout,” says Nielsen. “And that knowledge is so worth it when you get it.”

Lickteig’s recovery started with extreme restrictions. She could barely stand to get her foot in a pant leg. She could do no weight-bearing activities for the first four weeks. Then, using crutches, she’d walk three miles with Ordorica. She did upper body workouts, strength training, and stabilizing exercises under Nielsen’s supervision first at OrthoNebraska and then at ATI Physical Therapy. Lickteig also works as a physical therapist at ATI.

On the 89th day of recovery, Nielsen had Lickteig run on an antigravity treadmill for 35 minutes at 65 percent body weight.

“I still was able to run. I cried. I cried at minute 17 because I was able to run,” recalls Lickteig.

Four months after her injury, Lickteig has started training for the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run in June. With newfound appreciation for the limitations of the human body, she concedes she may run fewer hours each week and add more rest days.

A pelvic fracture or two won’t stop her. The Western States race is Lickteig’s dream race, according to Ordorica: “She wouldn’t miss Western States unless she had a leg fall off.”


The 2018 Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run takes place June 23-24 in California (wser.org). For more information about the Omaha physical therapists helping Kaci Lickteig to recover, visit orthonebraska.com and atipt.com.

This article was printed in the May/June 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

from left: Kaci Lickteig and Christy Nielsen

Height-Adjustable Desks Are Easy To Love

May 16, 2018 by

The “act of sitting” is bad. It’s not just about how poor posture can lead to chronic pain; it can reduce life expectancy.

According to a study by the National Institute of Health, the average American spends 7.7 hours a day sitting in front of the computer, in the car, or on the couch. That equals about 55 percent of one’s waking time. 

More shocking were the findings of a study by the Annals of Internal Medicine. This study suggested that the amount of time a person sits during the day is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and death, regardless of regular exercise.

That last part surprised me. The study suggests that even those who go to the gym after a long day of sitting in front of the computer are going to suffer the ill effects of sitting.

Height-adjustable desks are a great way to help augment a healthier lifestyle. Because of that, these desks have been gaining popularity in households and professional workplaces. Here are some reasons to love height-adjustable desks.

Better Posture

A height-adjustable desk naturally improves posture and strengthens the spine when upright. It’s a lot harder to slouch and hunch over the computer when standing up. This means fewer backaches and pains.

Increased Energy

With better posture comes better breathing. Sitting at the computer for a long period of time can be exhausting and even painful. Think about a typical day at work: after 30 to 45 minutes of staying in the same seated position, muscles can cramp, and blood flow slows, leaving a person feeling restless and uncomfortable. Standing helps increase blood flow and even helps tone muscles. This lets employees remain alert and increases their energy while working. They become more focused, and in turn, more productive.

Longer Life

This may sound dramatic, but it is no joke: a height-adjustable desk could literally add years to a person’s life. Studies by the NIH and Centers for Disease Control, among others, have described prolonged sitting as “the new smoking.” Sedentary habits can lead to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. These studies show that reducing the amount of time spent seated can help reduce the risk of these diseases.

More Calories Burned

A height-adjustable desk can help avoid the health pitfalls of sitting all day and burn calories at the same time, as standing burns more calories than sitting. Studies show that about 50 calories are burned per hour when simply standing, but standing encourages people to move even more, often burning significantly more calories.

Those who are not quite ready to stand up and work should note that it is still important to get up and move…your life may depend on it!


This column was printed in the June/July 2018 edition of B2B.

Doug Schuring is the director of sales administration at All Makes Office Equipment Co.

Punching Back Against Parkinson’s

March 20, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The up-tempo music pulsating from the rehabilitation wing at Life Care Center of Elkhorn doesn’t signal “party time” for physical therapists ending their shift; it signals the start of another Rock Steady Boxing session for people who’ve been knocked down—but not out—by a cruel, insidious, relentless, and incurable foe: Parkinson’s disease.

Gary Johnson, diagnosed with the degenerative movement disorder about 12 years ago when he first got tremors, usually arrives early for an afternoon boxing workout. His wife drives him twice a week from their home in Fort Calhoun to the nursing and rehab facility, where Johnson greets other outpatients who share his struggles.

“I can barely talk,” Johnson says in a whisper. “[Parkinson’s] paralyzes your voice box. I’ve had DBS [deep brain stimulation], which helps with my shaking, but it hasn’t helped my balance. That’s why I come here to boxing.”

Seven men, all past 60 and exhibiting a range of Parkinson’s symptoms from mild to severe, lace up their boxing gloves and take a position on the gym floor around a makeshift boxing ring—a low platform topped with thick brown mats.

But instead of hitting each other, the boxers practice their jabs, uppercuts, and right hooks on freestanding punching bags (including a mannequin-like “body opponent bag” affectionately known by its acronym, BOB).

Coupled with a rigorous calisthenics and aerobic workout led by a Parkinson’s-trained fitness instructor, the hour-long boxing session leaves the boxers sweaty but invigorated.

“This is completely non-contact,” explains Cheri Prince, director of rehabilitation services at Life Care of Elkhorn. “Rock Steady Boxing is a national program that started in Indianapolis and Life Care became a Rock Steady affiliate two years ago. It utilizes the kind of fitness regimen boxers go through.”

Why boxing, of all things, the brutal sport of Muhammad Ali (who also fought Parkinson’s)?

“Boxers have to have speed and great balance, with the ability to move quickly on their feet. Parkinson’s patients struggle with that. Their movements get progressively slower,” Prince says. “Boxers have to be agile and flexible. Parkinson’s patients have trouble with rigidity and lack of flexibility. There are a lot of parallels.”

Paul Jackson

To get their limbs moving and muscles working, trainer Abbie Harvey pushes the group through a series of precise arm and leg stretches, forward and sideways lunges, steps to the front and back, deep knee bends, shoulder pushes off the mats, and jumping jacks.

She then gives the order to start punching, which the boxers perform with surprising ferocity. Their ever-supportive wives, sitting together as a group watching the workout, smile at the sudden burst of power.

Boxers yell out the number of punches or reps to help keep their voices strong. The music adds some fun and socialization to what amounts to a grueling workout.

The benefits of the boxing should not be underestimated. Gary Johnson, who used to work for the National Resource Conservation Service, says his walking and balance are much better.

George Moon, a framing carpenter from North Omaha whose symptoms include the inability to stand up straight, has also experienced progress.

“I noticed improvement in my writing, which was getting smaller. That’s one thing that goes. Since I started boxing here two years ago, my writing is back to normal,” Moon says.

Current research backs up their claims. While drugs manage some symptoms of Parkinson’s, only exercise has proven to actually slow its progression. Proponents of exercise point to another crucial benefit, too.

“Attitude is like 90 percent of the battle and depression is prevalent,” says Julie Pavelka, a nurse practitioner who works directly with Parkinson’s patients at Nebraska Medicine. “Exercise actually promotes stimulation of the neurochemicals, including serotonin and dopamine, that affect mood and emotions. The mood benefits from exercise are very significant.”

George Moon

Perhaps that’s why Paul Jackson and his fellow boxers don’t dwell on the lousy hand dealt to them. They’re not angry; they don’t wallow in self-pity or curse their fate.

“What you can do is take what you’ve got, like exercise and boxing, take the tools you have and try to make the most of them,” says Jackson, who displays only a slight hitch to his gait. “We’re hoping they find a cure, but I know it won’t be in my lifetime.”

For the over 500 Nebraskans diagnosed with Parkinson’s each year (most are seniors), a cure can’t come fast enough.

“We’re in the Parkinson’s belt along with Iowa, North Dakota, and Minnesota,” explains Pavelka, highlighting what researchers suspect: pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers may somehow play a role in contracting the disease.

For people living with Parkinson’s in the Omaha area who wish to focus on their quality of life and forge new friendships, a little boxing ring may be just what the doctor ordered.

Life Care Center of Elkhorn offers Rock Steady Boxing to outpatients every Monday at 4 p.m., and Wednesdays at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sessions cost $10 each, no reservations required. Visit lifecarecenterofelkhorn.com for more information.

George Moon

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of 60 Plus.

Hey Parents-

March 16, 2018 by

This sponsored content was printed in the Spring/Summer 2018 edition of Family Guide. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/fg_flipbook_0318/2

Summer slide may sound like an exciting activity, but in reality it’s no fun. The term refers to the learning loss many children experience over the summer. Research shows that without access to learning activities throughout the summer, kids fall behind academically. For students who are already behind in school, summer learning loss pushes them even farther behind their peers. Repeat this year after year, and major consequences develop, as one in six children who do not read proficiently by third grade fail to graduate high school in time—four times the rate for third graders with proficient skills.

“We want children to have the best summer ever, and of course that means time for play, but it’s also important that children continue to engage and learn,” said Jenny Holweger, Vice President of Program Development at the YMCA of Greater Omaha. “A child’s development is never on vacation, and at YMCA Summer Camps, kids don’t just learn about the world around them; they actively engage in the world around them.”

In Omaha, the YMCA of Greater Omaha helps prevent the summer slide by offering a diverse selection of summer camps that keep kids active while sharpening their minds.

The stress of finding the right summer camp can feel overwhelming, but with the YMCA of Greater Omaha’s easy-to-read Camp Guide (now available online and at all nine YMCA of Greater Omaha locations), shopping for the best summer camp fit is as simple as browsing through a catalog.

With such a variety of camp options, it’s easy to find the perfect camp to keep your child engaged, and learning, while having fun along the way.

YMCA summer camps include: day camp for kindergarten-twelve years, the outdoor-enthusiastic favorite Camp Platte for ages 6-15, half and full day specialty camps that allow for mastery of topics ranging from babysitting to healthy living to Lego building for ages 5-14, STEM camps for kindergarten-fifth grade, preschool camp, and teen leadership camps.

Outside of camp, parents and caregivers can help by keeping their children reading and engaged in learning throughout the summer. Here are a few tips from the Y to help parents get started:

Foster an Early and Ongoing Passion for Books—Read to and with your kids. Start a book series together and read each night as a family. Reading at night keeps the brain buzzing and young minds active!

Visit Your Local Library—Explore new books you and your kids may have missed to keep your mind sharp during the summer. Be sure to check out special programming while you’re there; many libraries offer classes, story time or programs throughout the summer.

Cut Screen Time—With smartphones, tablets, video games, television and movies there are more options than ever for your child to entertain themselves with screens, but children should spend no more than two hours per day in front of a screen.

Enroll Your Kids in Camp—Camps like those offered at the Y provide well-rounded programming, make learning fun and provide a social outlet for your children throughout the summer.


Pick up your YMCA camp guide today at all YMCA of Greater Omaha location or online at metroymca.org/camp.

No Sick Days Allowed

February 24, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

A badly congested and bleary-eyed man pokes his head through a door and intones, “Dave, I’m sorry to interrupt. I’ve got to take a sick day tomorrow.”

The recipient of the man’s pronouncement isn’t his boss, but a brown-eyed toddler standing in his crib with a quizzical look on his little face.

This TV commercial for a cold medicine elicits chuckles, but the underlying message is nothing to sneeze at: Moms and dads who care for their children can’t take days off.

As germs begin to outnumber snowflakes, take comfort. Several basic, commonsense, and proactive approaches to keep bugs at bay exist, as outlined by a medical doctor, a registered dietitian, and a mental health expert.

For The Body

Wash Your Hands

Good hand hygiene ranks No. 1 on the prevention list of Dr. Emily Hill Bowman, a physician at Boys Town Internal Medicine. That means frequently washing your hands with soap and water, or, in their absence, using a hand sanitizer.

“Contact with hands is a frequent cause of transmission for viral infections,” says Hill Bowman, and that includes touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Medical guidelines recommend a good scrubbing for 20 seconds, or about the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.

Cover Your Mouth

Viral illnesses can spread through respiratory secretions. “Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, then wash your hands,” cautions the internist.

Get a Flu Shot

Because influenza can lead to serious consequences, especially for younger children and the elderly, Hill Bowman recommends everyone over the age of six months should get a flu shot to prevent the spread of the virus. ”Typically, the influenza vaccine is an inactive vaccine so it does not cause influenza,” reassures Hill Bowman, allaying concerns a flu shot might do more harm than good.

Take Vitamin D

Healthy habits make your immune system fight infection. That means eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep. “But we don’t get enough vitamin D in our diet and we don’t get enough [vitamin D] from the sun after September, which is why vitamin D is always my starting point with people,” says registered dietician and exercise physiologist Rebecca Mohning, owner of Expert Nutrition in Omaha. “It boosts the immune system and it’s naturally occurring in mushrooms and egg yolks, but not in the amount we need on a daily basis.”

Eat Fiber

Mohning says fiber, particularly that found in oats, barley, and nuts, has protective compounds that boost the immune system.

Probiotics—the Friendly Bacteria

Those good live cultures found in yogurt or in the fermented milk drink kefir also boost your body’s ability to fight infection, as do fermented foods like sauerkraut. Not a fan? Take a probiotic supplement, says Mohning.

Drink Water

Getting enough water during the winter months can be more difficult because you may not feel as thirsty. But nothing beats water for flushing toxins from your body. Try drinking a 12-oz. mug of hot water with one teaspoon of lemon juice for a healthy way to warm up.

For The Mind

Does anyone in your family turn on all the lights in the house as soon as the sun makes an early exit during the winter? Seasonal affective disorder, also called the winter blues, affects about 15 million Americans, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. The depressive disorder can sap your energy and bring on moodiness. Treatment for SAD can include a light box and, in extreme cases, talking with a mental health practitioner.

Plan Activities and Stick to the Plan

Heading off the blues before they arrive can be as simple as marking a calendar, says Jennifer Harsh, Ph.D., director of behavioral medicine for General Internal Medicine at UNMC. “If we know the cold weather season can be difficult for us mentally, we can plan ahead,” she says.

As a family therapist, Harsh believes strongly that keeping the mind and the body active can help your physical, emotional, and social well-being.

“Plan activities as a family or with a partner, whether they include games indoors or physical exercise elsewhere. Put them on a schedule or calendar and hold it with the same importance as you would hold going to work every day,” she says. “That way you act according to the schedule instead of according to your mood.”

Harsh says you can stave off emotional difficulties when you have something planned ahead of time that you value.

Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself

Maintaining good mental health should hold fast to the commonsense, basic, proactive approach that characterizes a healthy body discipline.

“Make your goals specific, attainable, and measureable,” says Harsh. “When you engage your family or a partner, you’re more likely to follow through.”

This article was originally printed in the Winter 2018 edition of Family Guide.

The Hidden Menace of Elder Abuse

February 20, 2018 by
Illustration by Matt Wieczorek

During Labor Day weekend in 2014, Jill Panzer and her youngest aunt set out for a seven-hour drive to Hemingford, Nebraska, to pick up Jill’s grandmother, Edna. The two were going under the guise that Edna would be staying in Omaha for a few weeks. Unbeknownst to Edna or her eldest daughter (who was also Edna’s caretaker), the two planned on keeping Edna in Omaha, because they suspected she was being exploited by her caregiver.

Panzer, the granddaughter, suspected something was amiss because her mother (Edna’s second of three daughters) said Edna—who had turned 90 a few years earlier—was appearing more and more confused during visits. Her eldest aunt moved into Edna’s home in the fall of 2011, months after Edna stumbled over her ottoman and injured her back.

Panzer says Edna’s eldest daughter began giving her mother the drug Lorazepam without a prescription to help Edna sleep at night and to help with her anxiety. Edna was later legally prescribed the drug. Then, the granddaughter says her youngest aunt visited Edna in July 2014. During that visit, she reported back to family in Omaha that the matriarch had a gash on her arm from a fall. She appeared extremely confused. Edna’s finances were also showing irregularities, such as missed rent payments that were due to Edna.

“We started looking and realizing there were a bunch of little things happening,” Panzer says.

When they arrived at Edna’s house, Panzer and her youngest aunt noticed Edna wasn’t packed for the trip. Edna’s eldest daughter told Panzer that Edna wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t make the trip to Omaha. In Edna’s home, her eldest and youngest daughter began arguing. While Edna and her daughters were talking, Panzer went to her grandmother’s room and began packing whatever clothes she could into suitcases and sacks. Panzer would later find out that many of the things she packed wouldn’t even fit her grandmother.

“I literally just packed up my entire car while those two women were going back and forth about everything,” Panzer says.

As the arguing continued, Edna began to feel ill. She went to the bathroom. Panzer tried to convince her to go back to Omaha with them. Panzer told her youngest aunt, “If I have to call the sheriff, we are leaving this house today with my grandmother.”

Panzer got her grandmother’s walker and helped her into the van. As she buckled her grandmother in, Edna’s youngest and eldest daughters were still talking. Finally, Edna’s youngest daughter got in the van with Panzer.

“I hit my power button, the sliding door in the van shut. I threw it in reverse, and we just drove,” Panzer says.

During the drive, Edna was upset. Eventually, the mood calmed enough that they ate fried chicken at a restaurant in Broken Bow on the way back to Omaha. When they finally arrived, Edna stayed at her youngest daughter’s home.

Panzer and her youngest aunt arranged medical evaluations for Edna. Doctors determined Edna didn’t show signs of physical abuse, but they did note her blood pressure medication was being administered improperly.

Along with scheduling medical evaluations, Panzer began making calls to close any financial accounts that Edna’s eldest daughter had access to, including Edna’s credit cards and bank accounts. On paper, this would appear to be a challenge, because Edna’s eldest daughter’s husband was her power of attorney. All it took was Edna’s verbal OK to close many of her accounts.

“It was that stinkin’ easy. All I had to do was put my grandmother on the phone. It’s almost criminal,” Panzer says.

As Edna’s financial and medical issues were being resolved, the matter of placing her in an assisted living center still loomed. Neither Panzer nor her youngest aunt were able to care for Edna full time. Panzer’s mother (Edna’s middle daughter) lived hours away. Panzer says her grandmother reluctantly agreed to stay in an assisted living center for rehab, but not permanently.

“She’s buried two husbands. She’s always been a fiercely independent, proud woman,” Panzer says.

Since that Labor Day trip in 2014, Edna has continued to live in the same assisted living center. Panzer was able to get a new, independent power of attorney for Edna. Her home in Hemingford was sold, and Panzer had to hire lawyers and go to court to evict Edna’s grandchild (the daughter of Edna’s eldest daughter) from Edna’s house.

“I don’t have a unique story,” Panzer says.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention lists the forms of elder abuse as the physical, sexual, or emotional abuse of an older adult. It also lists neglect and financial exploitation as other forms of abuse. In 2016, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services reported that Adult Protective Services received 126 cases of elder abuse in Douglas and Sarpy counties.

Attorney Susan Spahn handles estate and trust matters at Endacott, Peetz & Timmer law firm. As people’s life expectancy continues to increase, so does the time when people are living in a “gray area,” which Spahn defines as a place where people are capable of living independently, but at the same time, are vulnerable to exploitation from family members, or telephone and internet-based scams.

“They can tell stories from the past that are accurate, but if you ask them to make a decision that requires thought, they cannot do it,” Spahn says.

When a parent becomes less and less able to make financial decisions for themselves, their children are the most likely to be called to handle the finances. It’s no coincidence that the most common perpetrators of financial abuse for elders come from immediate family members.

Spahn compares the hidden scourge of elder abuse to the rampant spousal abuse that went unreported in the middle of the 20th century. “Nobody would talk about it. And it was viewed as a civil matter,” she says.

Some of the biggest temptations for elder abuse comes when a family member may still be reliant on their parents for financial assistance. Then, when the parent becomes unable to handle their own financial matters, the dependent child suddenly has access to a parent’s bank account and starts writing checks to themselves, Spahn says.

Another issue Spahn has seen is with inheritance, and children who are expecting their inheritance to help them as they age themselves.

“If mom and dad are holding on to 95, then that means they’re approaching their retirement without their inheritance, and they don’t like that,” Spahn says.

Spahn says the best way to prevent financial elder abuse is to appoint someone they trust the most with their bills as their power of attorney.

“I tell my clients the power of attorney is more important than their will,” Spahn says. “The will isn’t pulled out until after they’re gone.”

If a person either doesn’t have children, or has children who live too far away to be an effective power of attorney, Spahn says the next best step is to appoint a corporate fiduciary to handle their financial matters. Most banks have trust departments, where people can appoint independent financial guardians.

If a parent has more than one child, Spahn says one of the best ways to alleviate family tension amongst siblings is to have the designated power of attorney provide copies of banking and financial statements, and use software like Quicken to provide online access to such information.

“If one child is not willing to do that, then that’s a red flag,” Spahn says. “If mom is still alive, and the kids are hiring lawyers, they’ve all just lost.”

To report elder abuse, people are urged to call Adult Protective Services at 800-652-1999. Callers may remain anonymous. Visit the National Center on Elder Abuse at ncea.acl.gov for more information.

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Legislating Health Care Solutions for Small Businesses

February 4, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Health care consultant Sean McGuire has a background in political science. “My first job out of college was working in Washington, D.C., which is what I always wanted to do,” McGuire says.

The Iowa native worked on the staff of the Senate Committee on Finance, headed by Chuck Grassley, from 2005-2008. This committee oversees legislation around health care, such as Medicare and Medicaid.

McGuire continued to educate himself about health care legislation, even after coming back to Omaha. When McGuire read the Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare), he realized that the gray areas and sweeping size of the ACA would cause confusion.

“I recognized that this law is probably one of the biggest pieces of legislation that has ever been passed in our lifetime,” McGuire says.

McGuire then worked as the UNMC health policy adviser. A large part of this job was to inform the organization on the impact of the Affordable Care Act on the university, its hospital, and the local community. The job also included organizing quarterly briefings for local media.

“Health care reform was just starting to take shape, and Sean played a lead role on a committee that included some of the Medical Center’s brightest minds…The committee served as a resource for the entire state to help people better understand what was happening with health care reform,” says Tom O’Connor, senior associate public relations director for the UNMC.

McGuire understood that the ACA would have the most impact on doctors, small hospitals, and small businesses.

“They are there to provide a service—they’re not there to figure out government regulations and compliance.” McGuire says. “Those [people] are really who we enjoy working with the most.”

To offer solutions for health care for those small businesses, McGuire founded E.D. Bellis in 2011.

E.D. Bellis is named for McGuire’s great-great-great-grandfather, who came to Omaha in 1870. Bellis was recommended by a talent agent in New York to be the first organist for Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church and would be described as the “finest organ player west of the Missouri” in his obituary.

“He was a very influential person in the Omaha community that brought music and culture to a city that really needed it,” McGuire says. “I felt that he was the perfect face for what we’re trying to build…we’re trying to bring something new, which is information and understanding to people that need it, just as he brought culture and music to a rough pioneer town.”

In 2013, E.D. Bellis began an agency and broker partnership program with the insurance company Guardian. In that capacity, ED Bellis lends their health care law and compliance expertise to customers of Guardian as a complimentary service.

“They’re unique to the marketplace,” says Doug Gillespie, group sales consultant at Guardian.

In 2015, they began working throughout Des Moines, and in 2016 they started working with the Quad Cities and Ohio.

In summer 2017, E.D. Bellis branched out to Presque Isle, Maine. It’s an area that has a shortage of health care expertise. Five or six hospitals cover a portion of the state the size of Connecticut.

McGuire liked the fact that they were innovative, exemplified by their participation in the pioneer Accountable Care Organization demonstration. ACOs were eligible for higher reimbursements from Medicaid and Medicare if they met all the required standards of providing higher quality care and keeping their population healthy. While 32 health care systems were selected to take part, only a third of them made money.

E.D. Bellis plans to complement their existing programs and capitalize on new opportunities as the laws change.

“What I believe we are onto is a national concept that could be replicated all across the country,” McGuire says. “If it does, it’s going to prove our concept and we’ll open up in other parts of the country as well.”

McGuire anticipates that Omaha will remain the headquarters for E.D. Bellis, partially because Omaha and Des Moines are insurance and health care-heavy. “Almost every large building all over the Midwest is some sort of insurance,” McGuire says. Yet, many are still in the dark about health care. E.D. Bellis is there to help.

“The Affordable Care Act has caused a lot of problems for a lot of people, but it’s done good things too,” McGuire says. “I didn’t do this to make a buck. I did this to fill a need.”

Visit edbellisinc.com for more information.

This article was printed in the February/March 2018 edition of B2B.