Tag Archives: UNMC

Fighting Dementia With Coloring Books

June 15, 2017 by
Illustration by Mady Besch

Remember getting an unopened box of crayons—for school, for a birthday, just for fun? Remember the smell of the wax? The new, sharp points? Choosing your favorite color?

Most people would answer “Yes.” Coloring, whether as a kindergarten assignment or a rainy-day project, brings about happy memories for most people. It is those pleasant memories that have triggered a surge of popularity in adult coloring books.

Coloring was often a way for kids to stay entertained for hours, focused on filling in the lines on a piece of paper. That is one reason why therapists are now turning to coloring books for people with dementia.

“In my experience, the most helpful reason is because it is a focusing tool,” says Maggie Hock, a licensed mental health practitioner and owner of Bellevue Psychological.

Actually, the concept of coloring as an exercise to focus and relax is not new. Psychologist Carl Jung had his patients color mandalas, or geometric patterns, used to express the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism. In these traditions, the creation of a mandala helps with meditation.

Intricate circular patterns might be too complicated for dementia patients, depending on the stage of the dementia. Coloring books can be found online or at bookstores, and subjects range from World War II warships to classic movie posters and more. Those with historical subjects may be the best for dementia patients.

“Commonly in Alzheimer’s, older memories are intact,” says Dr. Daniel L. Murman, director of the behavioral and geriatric neurology program at UNMC. Merman says memories of doing things as a child often remain while memories of five to 10 years ago fade away.

“Memories from childhood are stored in a different part of the brain,” Murman says, noting that the act of coloring taps “into an area of strength, where people would potentially have fond memories of coloring and be able to participate in and enjoy the activity.”

Hock says people with dementia have difficulty focusing because the world around them is confusing and distracting. Handing a person with dementia a coloring book and coloring utensils gives them a purpose and takes them out of the confusion for a while.

Murman adds that even if they are not experiencing dementia, keeping active mentally and physically will help older people. And if someone does, in fact, have dementia, staying active can help preserve neural connections, which stimulates the brain and may help slow down the progression of the disorder.

While solving crossword or Sudoku puzzles may produce the same focus in people in less advanced stages, coloring has the added benefit of chromotherapy, or color therapy. Colors have different meanings for us as individuals. Someone who was forced to wear brown clothes as a child and hated them may still feel a strong dislike for the color brown. Someone who received a set of primary-colored blocks as a birthday gift might color only in primary colors.

Hock says letting someone with dementia color certainly won’t do harm, no matter how advanced the stage.

“It’s always worth a try,” Hock says, “to see what would engage them.”

This article appears in the May/June 2017 edition of Sixty-Plus, a periodical within Omaha Magazine.

Java Journey

April 28, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Like many who guzzle black gold, Sagar Gurung started downing coffee purely for utilitarian reasons.

The taste—he could have done without.

Sagar Gurung

“I started for the caffeine,” Gurung says. “When I took that first sip, I said, ‘What the hell is this? It’s bitter.’ I would add a lot of sugar, milk, and cream to it.”

Gurung has come a long way in his java journey. He is the founder and part-owner of one of Omaha’s newest non-chain caffeine joints, Himalayan Java Coffee House. It launched in June 2016 at 329 S. 16th St., across from the Orpheum Theater on Harney Street.

Not that long ago, what Gurung knew about coffee didn’t amount to a hill of beans. He has worked as a business analyst (currently for Valmont Industries) after earning a degree in computer science from Bellevue University in 2004. Gurung was born in Chitwan, Nepal, but lived mostly in India until he moved to Omaha in the 10th grade to live with his older sister. He graduated from Omaha Gross High School.

He took regular trips back home to Nepal, and it was during one of those trips that he went from coffee novice to coffee aficionado. The spark was a visit to Himalayan Java Coffee, a franchise launched in 1999 by Gagan Pradhan and Anand Gurung in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu.

Nepal is mostly a tea-loving country, but Pradhan and Anand Gurung were changing that with a concept utilizing small coffee farmers whose harvest had mostly been going outside the country. Nepalese farmers were more likely to grow millet or maize than they were coffee, which wasn’t introduced to the country until 1938 by a hermit who brought seeds from Myanmar (then Burma).

By the 1970s Nepalese farmers were beginning to pay attention to coffee as a serious cash crop. Today, it’s grown in nearly three dozen districts, thriving in one of the highest elevations in the world.

Pradhan and Anand Gurung, according to Sagar, “introduced coffee to Nepal,” showing countrymen how it should be planted, raised, roasted, brewed, and imbibed. Their efforts resonated—today, more than 20 Himalayan Java shops have been introduced in Nepal.

On Sagar’s first visit to Himalayan Java Coffee in Nepal, “I instantly loved everything they were doing,” he says. He began to lobby the duo to let him bring their brand and their coffee to his adopted homeland. He also proposed the idea to Nepalese friends who lived in Omaha, asking them to join as partners.

Finally, the founders relented. “I think they just wanted to make me stop bugging them.”

The Nepalese founders are more like “strategic partners” than they are franchisees, Sagar says, but the Omaha Himalayan Java buys all its coffee from its Nepalese counterpart.

It’s a competitive market in Omaha, dominated by national and local chains. Sagar says such competition only gave him more reason to launch Himalayan Java here. And none of the others in Omaha can offer the distinct Arabica flavor available in his store.

“Coffee has a natural tendency to embody its environment,” Sagar says. “So the taste you get is very unique to the area you grow in.”

He appears to have picked an ideal location for the startup. Customers come frequently from the Orpheum across the street, of course, but Himalayan Java also gets employees from nearby Union Pacific, First National, OPPD, other downtown businesses, students from Creighton and UNMC, and downtown denizens.

Himalayan Java offers a full complement of caffeinated beverages—espressos, cappuccinos, mochas, lattes, and more. The No. 1 seller, Sagar says, is the “Dark Roast 4.” The menu also includes sandwiches, soups, and salads.

Sagar says customer retention has been strong and that word-of-mouth marketing has helped  Himalayan Java enjoy 15- to 20-percent growth month over month. Enough that he’s had at least preliminary discussions about expanding to a second store.

He’s also heard from enough customers that he plans to introduce some home-cooking with a menu that should include Nepalese goat and chicken curry; “thukpa,” an intensely flavored noodle soup; and “momos,” spicy Nepalese dumplings typically filled with marinated minced meat.

“I want to introduce Nepali items you can’t get anywhere else in town,” he says.

For now, though, he’s intent on making sure Himalayan Java makes a name for itself with its roasts — something customers should recognize just steps inside.

“We are a coffee house, and it is a beautiful thing to walk into a store and the aroma hits you,” he says.

It took him a while to get there, but he says the taste is even better.

“Now I like my coffee dark with no sugar, no milk, or cream,” Sagar says. “I just love the way our coffee tastes.”

He’s hoping more and more Omahans will agree.

Visit himalayanjavausa.com for more information.

This article was published in the May/June edition of The Encounter.

From me to you

March 10, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It was Mother’s Day 2012. My friend Jen Rabine thought she was having an unbearable migraine. Her husband, Chris, drove her to the doctor.

“My blood pressure was 265 over 170,” Jen recalls. “That’s stroke level.”

She was rushed to the hospital where she spent twelve days. Eventually, the prolonged high blood pressure affected her kidneys; she was told they were functioning at 10 to 15 percent. She was constantly cold, her feet, ankles, and legs swelled, and the fatigue was overwhelming.

Jen received her first round of dialysis on her 40th birthday. The next day, she was finally able to go home to Chris and her three kids, Morgan (17 at the time), AJ (10), and Kiel (9). The hope was that the dialysis would restart her kidneys.

However, Dr. Alexander Maskin, Assistant Professor of Surgery on the Kidney Team at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, equates kidneys on dialysis to a car that breaks down all the time. “It can kind of get you where you’re going, but it needs repair a lot.”

The dialysis didn’t do the trick, and six months later, Dr. Maskin recommended that Jen sign the papers to get on the kidney transplant recipient list.

“I didn’t tell a lot of people what was going on,” Jen says, “because it’s my health issue, and I didn’t want people talking about my health, especially when I wasn’t there.”

We football moms started to miss our friend at practices and games. I knew what was going on, but few others did. Out of respect for Jen’s privacy, we said nothing.

“Chris is my best friend, and I just wanted to keep it between us,” Jen says of her husband. “It put a lot on his shoulders. I’d do the same for him.”

One day in June of 2013, Chris confided in my husband (also a Chris) and me that Jen needed a kidney.

I’ve lost people in my life that I wish I could have done something for. Here was an opportunity to do something for my friend. After prying the number out of Jen’s husband, I made the call to see if I could be a match.

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A transplant nurse coordinator took it from there. A coordinator’s job is to protect the donor and make sure you understand every aspect of the donation process. Should you ever have any reservations, she’s like your big sister (the good one)—she’ll back you up and support you, no questions asked.

For example, my coordinator is Connie Lykke. I say “is”, and not “was”, because even after donation, she keeps in touch and continues to answer any questions or concerns I may have pertaining to my kidney donation.

I started with a blood draw, and then there was the tissue match test. After a couple of visits to the UNMC lab and a few phone interviews, I eventually got the call: I was a kidney donor match for Jen.

Jen and I had the blood, and then the tissue matches. We had one genetic marker match, out of six possible matches. But according to Lykke, “A zero antigen (marker) match with a living donor is still way better than a perfect match with a cadaveric donor.”

Dr. Maskin explains further: “A living donor is a better quality kidney. It takes minutes to transplant as opposed to hours, and it lasts twice as long.” According to Dr. Maskin, a living donor kidney transplant lasts 15-20 years, maybe longer. A cadaver kidney transplant typically lasts 6-10 years.

I wanted to tell Jen immediately because I wanted her to know she had a match. I wanted her to just feel some relief.

On a rainy day at Mama’s Pizza, at a long table of adults, coaches, and kids, I leaned over to my friend and quietly said, “Um, hey, I’m a match for your kidney.”

Jen’s reaction was a mixture of shock, confusion, gratitude, and speechlessness.

My twins, Max and Lucy, are 11 years old. Old enough to understand what was happening. We encouraged them to ask any questions or talk over any concerns. They were excited to be included in the process.

On a Tuesday last October, Jen and I went in for transplant surgery. Hours later, my kids assessed my state, swollen from the surgery, and were concerned. When I kissed them goodbye for the night, they cried. That was difficult, but we talked through it.

I was home and in my own bed by Thursday. Jen was home on Friday. I’d wake up achy about 6 a.m., and my husband would jump out of bed to bring me toast, coffee, and a large water. I’d eat that so I could take my pain pills, then go back to sleep for a bit. I’d work hard to get out of bed—I had no idea you use abdominals that much to get out of bed, but you do. Within a week, I was still tender, but the severe abdominal pain was gone. I was healing.

Hours after her surgery, Jen’s swelling had gone down. Jen giggles and says, “The boys said, ‘Hey Mom, your Fiona feet are gone!’”

A week after that, I was back at the football stadium, surrounded by our football family, watching our boys win a game. I returned to work after two and a half weeks. Though the UNMC Transplant team prepared me to have pretty good fatigue for at least eight weeks, my only restriction was to lift no more than 10 pounds for six weeks. It actually took me nine weeks to get my normal energy back.

Eight weeks after surgery, Jen and her husband traveled to Hawaii. Ten weeks after surgery, my husband and I took Max and Lucy to Mexico.

Someone asked a friend of mine, “How could she do that? She has young kids!”

I donated a kidney because I have young kids. I’m trying to teach them to look out for themselves by looking out for others, to be kind and smart, and help people.

There’s also the added benefit of the thorough physical I received to assure my safety during the transplant process. My dad died of heart disease, and I have a family history of cancer, so I got some peace of mind thanks to the detailed examination of my lungs, heart, kidneys, spleen, and bladder.

Jen and I are closer after the surgery but don’t get to talk every day. I gave her my kidney so that she could go back to busy mom life. We couldn’t be happier for each other that we’re both back to the busy life of a mom.

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Endometriosis

December 13, 2013 by

If you’ve experienced extended pelvic pain, you’re not alone. As many as 15 to 20 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 50 will experience chronic pelvic pain that lasts six months or more. Pelvic pain can have many causes and sometimes it’s difficult to find a specific cause.

It is estimated that approximately 70 percent of these women will have endometriosis, a painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus—the endometrium—grows outside the uterus, or anywhere else where it’s not supposed to grow. It usually grows on the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the outer wall of the uterus, the intestines, or other organs in the abdomen or pelvis.

“The problem with endometriosis is that it can be difficult to diagnose.”
—Ginny Ripley, family practitioner at Nebraska Methodist Health System

The condition becomes troublesome when the displaced tissue continues to act as it normally would if it was inside the uterus and continues to thicken, break down, and bleed with each menstrual cycle. However, because the tissue is outside of the uterus, the blood cannot flow outside of the body. The displaced tissue can build up around the affected area and can become irritated, resulting in scar tissue, adhesions, or fluid-filled sacs called cysts. For women in their childbearing years, the adhesions may block the fallopian tubes and cause infertility.

“The problem with endometriosis is that it can be difficult to diagnose,” says Ginny Ripley, family practitioner at Nebraska Methodist Health System. “It doesn’t show up in ultrasounds or CAT scans, so the only definitive way to get a diagnosis is through surgery. Surprisingly, we’ve found that the severity of a woman’s symptoms do not correlate to the severity of the condition.”

So while some women with extensive endometriosis may have no symptoms at all, others may experience painful periods, heavy periods or bleeding, pelvic pain during ovulation, and pain during bowel movements or urination. The pain is usually located in the abdomen, lower back, or pelvic areas. Many women don’t realize they have endometriosis until they go to the doctor because they can’t get pregnant, or if they have a procedure for another problem. It is estimated that 20 to 40 percent of women who are infertile have endometriosis.

Because of the difficulty in diagnosing endometriosis, it is often a matter of ruling out other causes first before arriving at a diagnosis of endometriosis, notes Dr. Ripley. Other common causes of pelvic pain include fibroids, chronic pelvic inflammatory disease caused by long-term infection, pelvic congestion syndrome, an ovarian remnant, irritable bowel syndrome, interstitial cystitis, and musculoskeletal factors.

The type of treatment a woman receives will depend on the severity of symptoms and whether or not she is planning to become pregnant. Several treatments have to be tried before it is determined what works best. Many women can be treated successfully with anti-inflammatories or a combination of anti-inflammatories and oral  contraceptives and/or hormone therapy. Anti-inflammatories help reduce bleeding and pain. Birth control pills and hormone therapy help shrink the endometrial tissue by lowering hormone levels and help suppress the growth of additional endometrial implants—but they also prevent pregnancy.

“While the tissue growth may come back, it often cleans up the area long enough to allow a woman to conceive.”
—Katherine Finney, M.D., obstetrician/gynecologist University of Nebraska Medical Center

In more severe cases in which all other options have been exhausted, surgery may be recommended to remove the extra tissue growth, says Katherine Finney, M.D., obstetrician/gynecologist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Surgery is performed laparoscopically. This means that the doctor places a small, lighted tube through a small incision in your belly and looks for signs of displaced endometrial tissue. The tissue can then be removed or destroyed through heat or cauterization.

“While the tissue growth may come back, it often cleans up the area long enough to allow a woman to conceive,” says Dr. Finney. “Rates of conceiving are higher after surgery, but some women may still need fertility treatments to help as well.”

If pregnancy is not a goal, medications, such as hormone therapy, can be taken following surgery to prevent the growth of new or returning endometriosis, says Dr. Finney.

For women with severe pain due to endometriosis, a hysterectomy may be considered as a last option; however, this is rarely needed anymore. “We do far fewer hysterectomies today than we have in the past because we have so many other effective options,” says Dr. Ripley.

Some women may not require treatment, as they have no or only mild symptoms, while others can have notable symptoms due to pain and/or infertility issues. Treatment is typically based on symptoms. If you are near menopause, you may want to consider managing your symptoms with medications rather than surgically. Once you stop having periods, endometriosis will usually stop causing you problems, notes Dr. Finney. In rare cases, post-menopausal women will still experience continued pain, in which case their physician should evaluate them to determine if they are a candidate for surgery.

Game On

September 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When was the last time you put down your blinking, beeping electronic gadget (think iPhone, iPad, iPod, iAnything) and picked up a traditional board game?

If you can’t recall the month (or even year) you found such entertainment with family and friends, make plans to visit Midtown Crossing this fall to experience Spielbound.

Spielbound—a play on the word spellbound using spiel, a German word meaning fun or game—is the brainchild, passion, and part-time preoccupation of Kaleb Michaud, a local board game collector and enthusiast.

Michaud, a full-time University of Nebraska Medical Center research professor studying the effects of arthritis, owns more than 2,200 board games from various genres in his personal collection. The towering stacks currently reside in his Dundee home but will move to Spielbound at Midtown Crossing in the coming months.

For years Michaud, 38, has hosted game nights in his home for friends and neighbors. Guests (the most was 45 people) pick a game to play and others join in. By the end of the evening, Michaud jokes, the more cerebral games are put aside for something easier (read: ones that require less mind power but yield more laughs).

“Board games are a tactile experience,” Michaud explains. “They encourage human interaction.”

A look up and around at Michaud’s shelves of games reveal a varied collection, many of which hail from Europe. Since purchasing his first few games in the mid-1990s, Michaud estimates he has added four or five new titles per month.

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His interest was sparked playing The Settlers of Catan with a college friend and only grew from there. Michaud realized, after shopping the standard big-box stores, that the variety of games he sought just wasn’t available.

“I was amazed at the quality of board games not available in stores,” he explains. “And lesser-known games often lack advertising dollars for promotion.”

Though Spielbound was slated to move into the old Attic Bar & Grill at Midtown Crossing this fall, Michaud states, “Unfortunately, we don’t know when we’re opening at this point. Midtown Crossing is trying to find us another location otherwise it could be several months due to the additional construction needed. It’s September to January time period.”

When Spielbound does open, the shop will offer a café area serving coffee drinks and light snacks, a party room for gamers, and the crown jewel of the space: the complete library with floor-to-ceiling shelves of games.

Michaud and volunteers have spent the past few months cataloging the collection and recording details of each game, instructions, and the number of pieces included in each box.

Players will be able to join the board game café for a monthly or annual fee. A drop-in rate will also be available for customers who plan to frequent Spielbound a few times throughout the year. Teachers will receive a discount to borrow games used in the classroom.

Michaud wanted Spielbound located in the heart of the city and in close proximity to two large gaming audiences: students at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Creighton University. (Although Michaud doesn’t rule out the possibility of his UNMC students and colleagues playing a game or two as well.)

Michaud and his board of directors have applied for nonprofit status, a unique approach for such a venture, he explains. Spielbound will need memberships, grants, and donations to keep its doors open. But in this nonprofit organization, however, the primary focus will be fun and, of course, games.

For updates, visit Spielbound at spielbound.com

Watch Out for Heat Stroke

June 20, 2013 by

Most people—especially those of us who know how muggy and hot Nebraska summers can be—have suffered from heat exhaustion at least once. It usually hits us after we’ve spent too much time outdoors in the blazing sun and haven’t been drinking enough fluids to keep us properly hydrated.

Heat exhaustion is pretty easy to recognize. Muscles cramp up, fatigue sets in, and sometimes lightheadedness or fainting can occur. But never write off heat exhaustion as “not that big of a deal” because it can be a precursor to a more serious heat injury called heat stroke.

Robert Muelleman, M.D., Chair of Emergency Medicine in the Department of Emergency Medicine at UNMC, explains that heat stroke usually causes alteration or damage to a person’s mental state. “It could be as mild as confusion or as severe as seizures,” he says. “Heat stroke damages a lot of different organs—brain, heart, liver, kidneys. That’s why it can be so deadly.”

Dr. Muelleman categorizes heat stroke into two types: classic heat stroke and exertion heat stroke. “Classic heat stroke is the one you read about during a heat wave in the summer. It typically affects elderly people with chronic medical conditions, like diabetes, hypertension, or emphysema. The issue there isn’t necessarily the daytime highs but rather the nighttime lows. If the temperature doesn’t drop below 80° for 72 hours, that’s when we’ll see classic heat stroke. The body doesn’t have a chance to cool down.”

“Heat stroke damages a lot of different organs—brain, heart, liver, kidneys. That’s why it can be so deadly.” – Robert Muelleman, M.D., UNMC

Exertion heat stroke, however, can happen to anybody, and it doesn’t even have to be that hot outside. It’s more about the heat index, explains Dr. Muelleman. “Heat index takes into account the humidity. If the heat index rises above 105°, then everyone is at risk. If it rises above 115°, then athletic and outdoor events really should be canceled.” With exertion heat stroke, it’s a matter of whether or not your body is unable to dissipate the heat or is generating too much heat.

When the body’s temperature control is overwhelmed, it can’t effectively cool down the body. Sweating is the normal response to overheating, but several factors can inhibit the body’s ability to cool itself—things like high humidity, obesity, fever, mental illness, poor circulation, heart disease, sunburn, and prescription drug or alcohol use.

Healthy children and adults are susceptible to heat stroke exertion in the summer because working in the heat or participating in summer sports can put them at risk. Babies, too—especially those left in cars when it’s hot. “Car temperatures rise so fast,” Dr. Muelleman says. “It’s extremely dangerous to leave a baby in the car during the summer.”

As for the symptoms of heat stroke, the Mayo Clinic recognizes the following:

  • High body temperature—usually 104°F (40°C) or higher
  • Lack of sweat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Flushed skin
  • Rapid breathing
  • Racing heart rate
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
  • Muscle cramps or weakness

If you suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke, immediately call 911 or transport them to the hospital. Any delay seeking medical help can be fatal. While waiting for aid, move the person to an air-conditioned environment and attempt to cool them down by removing unnecessary clothing, fanning air over them, wetting skin with cool water from a cloth or sponge, or applying ice packs.

Young Hero: Audrey Hansen

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.”

Dr. Mike Sitorius

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

As a family physician for 33 years, Dr. Mike Sitorius spends time stressing the importance of staying physically active to his patients. And while the doctor, 61, logs 60+ hours a week on the job, as well as serves a leadership role at UNMC, he still finds time to practice what he preaches. Some might say he “walks the walk.” Literally.

“I played a lot of basketball up until about my mid-50s when arthritis in my knees forced me to give it up,” Dr. Sitorius says. “Then I took up walking. I prefer to walk at work and try to get in 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day. I used to use a pedometer, but nowadays I have a pretty good gauge without one.”

That may seem like a lot of steps, but Dr. Sitorius says climbing the stairs whenever possible, taking “the long way” to meetings, and walking the six blocks between buildings on the UNMC campus several times daily allow him to rack up steps pretty quickly.

“It’s good physical activity, but it’s the mental part, too…Walking allows me good thinking time,” he adds. He also enjoys walking with his wife, Marilyn, a radiologist, in their Omaha neighborhood two or three times a week when the weather allows. “It’s a great time for us catch up on things with one another.”20130327_bs_9232_Web

Dr. Sitorius says he stretches and does balancing exercises regularly as well. “No tools or equipment needed…just my body.”

Mental exercise is as important as physical exercise, especially for the aging body, he declares. “Mental activity creates a sense of well-being and a better perception of one’s physical health. I encourage everyone to read—not just a novel but anything—or do something mentally stimulating…Learn something new. Right now, I’m trying to learn all of the new technology out there, one small bit at a time.”

One should not underestimate the importance of socializing to one’s health either, Dr. Sitorius says. “It’s easy to become disconnected to other groups, especially with all the technology today. Personal interaction is important. I love everything sports, and I always found time to socialize following my children’s high school and college sport teams (and with five children, that’s a lot of games!) and I’m a huge Husker fan—not just football but all [university] sports.”

He also stays connected, both personally and professionally, with his peers, serving on the Nebraska Advisory Commission for Rural Health and the Bellevue Medical Center Board.

Think balancing it all is tough with the doctor’s busy schedule? “My dad (who was a rural general practicioner) used to work 110-120 hours a week. He would have no sympathy for my schedule,” he says with a chuckle.

Filling Mom’s Shoes

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Daughters become inspired, motivated, and awed by their mothers as they see them dash out the door on a volunteer mission time after time. They often follow in their footsteps.

But as daughters trail mothers down the volunteer road, they’re finding the path has veered. More women in the workplace means a different approach to volunteering. Meetings once scheduled for mornings are now scheduled for noon so volunteers can return to jobs. An e-mail sent at midnight is now more likely to happen.

How volunteers schedule their time has changed. The dedication and sense of responsibility that daughters learn from mothers has not. Here we share four stories about the gift mothers give daughters that keeps on giving —the gift of volunteering.

Gail Yanney & Lisa Roskens

Gail Yanney became an anesthesiologist in the 1960s when few women held careers. At the time, the consensus was that working women didn’t have time to volunteer. (We know better now.) But she soon became one of Omaha’s most active volunteers.

Her volunteering career began while she was a busy student at UNMC College of Medicine. Invited to join Junior League, she asked permission from her department head.

“He said, ‘Physicians need to be part of their community,’” remembers Gail, who is now retired.

Passionate about the environment, she was a teacher naturalist at Fontenelle Forest on her day off. Gail is also a founder of the Women’s Fund of Omaha.

 “I was inspired by my mother, who did things women didn’t do then. If you’re not influenced by your parents, you’re not paying attention.” – Lisa Roskens

With her husband, Michael Yanney, she received the Spirit of Nebraska Award from the Eppley Cancer Center last year.

Gail’s daughter, Lisa Roskens, learned from her mom. “I was inspired by my mother, who did things women didn’t do then. If you’re not influenced by your parents, you’re not paying attention.”

Lisa is chairman of the board, president, and CEO at the Burlington Capital Group, a company founded by her father, who partners with his wife in philanthropy. Volunteering is a family affair at the Roskens’ house where Lisa’s husband, Bill, and their two children join in. They rally around animals and kids and have helped at the Nebraska Humane Society and at Take Flight Farm.

Lisa tries to pass on to Charlie, 13, and Mary, 10, what her mother passed on to her. “We try to instill that sense of giving back as an obligation to being a citizen in a community. I don’t tell them what charities to support, but foster independence.

“Mom said the only thing you get out of life is what you give away.”

Sharon Marvin Griffin & Melissa Marvin

Sharon Marvin Griffin and her daughter, Melissa Marvin, have received many of Omaha’s top honors for volunteering. For Sharon, they have included Arthritis Woman of the Year, Ak-Sar-Ben Court of Honor, Salvation Army Others Award, and United Way of the Midlands Volunteer of the Year, among others. For Melissa, awards have included the 2010 YWCA Women of Distinction and honors from the Omaha Junior Chamber of Commerce.

Each has been involved in more than 40 charitable activities over a lifetime. Each presently serves on 10 nonprofit boards. Coincidence? Not likely. Melissa has inherited her mother’s zest for volunteering.

“Mom is a professional volunteer,” says Melissa. “No. 1 is the importance of giving back. No. 2 is the importance of how to be a leader, how to work together in teams. I try to emulate that.”

“Mom is a professional volunteer…I try to emulate that.” – Melissa Marvin

Melissa remembers her first volunteer experience at age 7. She and brother Barney, then age 2, delivered Christmas gifts to shut-ins. “We looked on it as an honor,” she says.

The family, including her father, Sam Marvin, who died in 1997, together rang bells for The Salvation Army.

The mother and daughter also have in common busy careers. Sharon, who is married to Dr. William Griffin, has had a 25-year career in real estate at NP Dodge. Melissa is with the Cohen Brown Management Group and is director of Community Engagement for Metropolitan Community College.

Mom has the final word: “The more you give, the more you grow.”

Susan Cutler, Jeanie Jones & Jackie Lund

Susan Cutler has big fans in her daughters.

“I watch all the friends Mom has made and the rewards you get from giving. I have huge shoes to fill,” says Jeanie Jones. “I don’t think she realizes how big those shoes are.”

Those shoes took the first steps to volunteering in her hometown of Council Bluffs, where Susan lived with her husband, Bill Cutler, a funeral director. They moved to Omaha in 1987. “When I started volunteering, I learned so much about my community,” she says.

She volunteered at her children’s schools. “I wanted to meet other parents, learn what was happening,” says Susan, who was a third-grade teacher earlier in her life. She presently is on the board of directors of the Methodist Hospital Foundation and Children’s Hospital Foundation and is co-chairman for Joslyn Art Museum’s 2013 Gala.

“I have huge shoes to fill. I don’t think [Mom] realizes how big those shoes are.” – Jeanie Jones

Her daughters have their own impressive resume of community service.

“I remember Mom was involved in Ak-Sar-Ben when I was in sixth and seventh grades. I had to go to stuff and didn’t like it,” laughs daughter Jackie Lund. The mother of two children is owner of Roots & Wings Boutique in Omaha. But Jackie now goes to “stuff” and enjoys it. She is guild board treasurer of the Omaha Children’s Museum.

“I met some of my best friends through volunteer work,” says daughter Jeanie, who has three children. She serves in leadership positions for such groups as Clarkson Service League, Ak-Sar-Ben, Joslyn Art Museum, and Girls, Inc.

Susan said she didn’t try to influence her daughters. “Your children do what they watch, not what you say.” She continues her devotion to volunteering. “You learn about yourself, as well as about the community. It all comes back to you more than you can ever imagine.”

Sharon McGill & Kyle Robino

Kyle Robino remembers as a child slapping stickers on hundreds of mailings for charities. That was her first exposure to the world of volunteering with her mother, Sharon McGill.

Their family’s tradition of volunteering has been passed down from generation to generation. Sharon inherited the volunteering gene from her mother, who helped establish the Albuquerque Garden Center, and from her grandmother, a strong force in her rural New Mexico community. “I looked back at their lives and learned how they made things better for others,” she says.

Sharon brought along her talents as a ballet dancer when she moved to Omaha in 1968. Not surprisingly, her first volunteer act was helping to build a professional ballet company. A dancer, teacher, board president, and, later, ballet mistress for Ballet Omaha, Sharon took her two daughters along. They attended ballet classes and absorbed the essence of volunteering from watching their mother. She now serves on the Joslyn Castle board.

“I think people who volunteer clearly had mothers who were great role models. My mom was a great role model.” – Kyle Robino

Kyle and her sister, Gwen McGill, who resides in Napa Valley, Calif., are following in their mother’s ballet shoes.

The JDRF is the center of Kyle’s volunteer work. Five years ago, her older daughter, Olivia, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Kyle’s husband, Mike, is board president of the JDRF Heartland Chapter.

“As you get older, you figure out what your passions are and what causes are personal to you,” says Kyle, who owns Old Market Habitat flower shop. “I think people who volunteer clearly had mothers who were great role models,” she says. “My mom was a great role model.”

Kyle is now a role model for a possible fifth generation of volunteers—daughters Olivia, 14, and Ava, 7. These young ladies will have big shoes to fill, too.

Jay Noddle

November 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“When people are relying on you, you better be prepared to show up with suggestions and a solution and go the extra mile. Leadership is about how you do when things are tough, not when they are easy.”

Tough was the word for 2008, adds real estate developer Jay Noddle. “I was wondering if every decision I made would turn out to be wrong when the economy crashed. We were working in a time of change. Suddenly, there were no experts in our industry…No one to ask because business hadn’t faced extreme economic challenges like those.”

Commitments were met and business improved, says Noddle, who believes his strength is strategic planning.

“Leadership is about how you do when things are tough, not when they are easy.”

“We ask, ‘What do you believe you need? Why do you feel that way? What are the differences between your wants and needs?’ We’re focused on helping organizations think through those decisions and develop a vision and a strategy that will help achieve that vision.”

After returning to his hometown of Omaha in 1987 following 10 years in Denver where he attended college and worked, he founded Pacific Realty. The company turned into Grubb & Ellis/Pacific Realty in 1997 when it became an independent affiliate of the national company. In 2003, he succeeded his father, Harlan Noddle, as president and CEO of Noddle Companies. The company has been involved in 125 office and retail projects coast to coast.

“All we have is our reputation built on what we accomplished,” Noddle says. “We make sure we work within our capabilities.”

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Think Big

Jay Noddle takes on the big jobs. The First National Tower that stretches 40 stories high. One Pacific Place. Gallup headquarters. But his most ambitious project sits in the middle of an historical Omaha neighborhood.

“Aksarben Village is probably as good of an example of collaboration and teamwork as I’ve seen in my career,” says Noddle. “City, county, state, university, neighborhood associations, and bankers came together and said, ‘Let’s do this.’”

The 70-acre property near 67th and Center streets had been transferred by Douglas County to the nonprofit Aksarben Future Trust for development. Noddle was selected as the developer.

Omahans have an affection for the area that goes back to 1921, when the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben moved its racetrack and colosseum there. The finish line of the racetrack is now the lobby of the Courtyard by Marriott.

“Today, we have a vibrant, popular place woven into the community,” says Noddle, who looks out his office window and sees people walking, biking, and running.

The close vicinity of University of Nebraska-Omaha and College of Saint Mary encourages businesses to locate in the Village, he says. “The schools produce the workforce of the future.  Business and industry are always looking for the best and the brightest. Aksarben Village has opened a whole new world for UNO, which is aspiring to grow to 20,000 students by 2020.”

More development is underway in the Village.

  • Gordmans’ corporate offices will move into a new building near 67th and Frances streets during the first quarter of 2014. The retail chain is another example of why location near the university is a good match for business: Gordmans is active in the design of the UNO College of Business curriculum.
  • Courtyard by Marriott developers will open a Residence Inn in the Village in early 2014.
  • The first opportunity to own housing at Aksarben Village will happen in Summer 2014 at Residences in the Village.
  • More apartments—200—are joining the 400 already at the Village.
  • D.J.’s Dugout will have its own new building in March.
  • Waitt Company will relocate its headquarters to the newly built Aksarben Corporate Center, a joint venture with Waitt and the Noddle Companies.

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Jay at Play

When you look at what Noddle has accomplished, you ask, “When does he have time for a life?” As it turns out, he makes plenty of time for family and fun.

His youngest, Aaron, 13, attends eighth grade. Sam, 19, attends the University of Miami.  Rebecca, 21, is studying social work at UNO.

“I’m a soccer dad. And I like to cook.” Noddle also enjoys golfing, scuba diving, and running and describes himself as “a big car guy.”

With a busier schedule, the Husker fan has had to subdue his Big Red fever. “I was a road warrior for the Huskers…Never missed a game, home or away.”

“When we work creating places and activities, whether a park or a ballpark, people will come out of their buildings and interact.”

His wife, Kim, started a new business this year—The Art Room in Rockbrook Village. The former District 66 art teacher offers classes and workshops. “It’s been a dream of hers as long as I’ve known her. She’s loving it,” says her proud husband.

Noddle joins volunteer organizations by looking for a connection to his interests.

He serves on the UNMC board of advisors and supports the Eppley Cancer Center (“My father had cancer”). He has been president-elect and president of the Jewish Federation of Omaha (“That is our culture”) and is a trustee of the University of Nebraska Foundation.

Omaha by Design is a special interest. “People think of sustainability as a liberal thing. But it’s not just recycling and green buildings. Sustainability promotes healthy living…Promotes interaction between people. When we work creating places and activities, whether a park or a ballpark, people will come out of their buildings and interact.”

“We work around the country, and Omaha is a special place,” says Noddle. “Unless you get beyond our borders, you don’t realize that.”