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Omaha Magazine

Editor's Letter: Quit Smoking? Lose Weight?

Dec 16, 2019 05:42PM ● By Daisy Hutzell-Rodman

Double-digits. Like many, I’ve been saying, “I can’t believe it’s 2020.” It’s a new year, a time to better oneself.

The most common resolution is to become healthier—45% of resolution-makers decree that they will lose weight. Many of those people will drop the resolution, not the weight. A study conducted by University of Scranton stated that only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals.

The people mentioned in our lead story may or may not have made a New Year’s resolution about their health, but they certainly achieved weight loss—to the tune of nearly 400 pounds. One person gave up alcohol, then smoking, then started exercising. One person worked with doctors at the Bariatrics Center at the UNMC. One person started a keto diet to help alleviate pain. A fourth had surgery and continued their weight-loss journey afterwards.

While they lost weight, they also helped their blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and more. The three aforementioned issues are also risk factors for stroke, a condition that affects more than 795,000 per year, according to the CDC. The majority of those people are over age 65—but around 15% are under 45. We interviewed three women around age 45 who experienced strokes when relatively young. Their strokes brought them together, and they have been advocates and friends—calling themselves the Stroke Homies (aka Stromies)—since.

The Stromies, fortunately, all live in the Omaha area and were able to receive medical treatment in a timely manner. Those who live in rural areas may not be able to arrive at medical treatment in time to prevent major brain damage, or even death. The University of Nebraska is helping to alleviate this problem through its Rural Health Opportunities Program, a collaboration between several smaller state schools and UNMC. Makayla Brockhaus of Creighton, Nebraska, is one person who is using this program in hopes of becoming a health professional in a rural area.

Hopefully, by the time Brockhaus and her fellow students graduate from medical school, a few debilitating diseases will be reduced or perhaps eliminated. Dr. Channabasavaiah B. Gurumurthy of the UNMC found an easier way to study genes and has been shaking the scientific world, collaborating with genome experts from Stanford to Oxford. His method is finding genes that are responsible for diseases from sickle cell anemia to certain cancers.

One reason this research is exciting is because, as Jackson Parks said, “The hospital isn’t everybody’s favorite place to be.” This Creighton pre-med student devotes his hours outside of school to helping others, particularly those at CHI Bergan Mercy Hospital. He answers phone calls and questions in person, and sometimes goes above and beyond by helping feed patients or going on walks with them.

With Parks’ people skills, he is likely going to have a great bedside manner, such as that of Dr. Oleg Militsakh, a plastic surgeon in Omaha. Militsakh is a specialist among specialists, and his work at Methodist Health Systems concentrates on those people who have experienced problems with basic functions such as swallowing or speaking.

Because this is our medical issue, nearly all our articles focus on health in some way. Our chef profile is about Dan Hamilton, head cook at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, and his struggles with Guillain-Barré. He was diagnosed with this paralyzing condition in May 2019, and with hard work, he retrained his fingers to do everything from use his mobile phone to chop vegetables. It took five months for him to be able to work again.

That is about half the time it took Robert Chandler to go back to his passion of diving. This champion who has dived everywhere from Nebraska to South Korea misgauged a maneuver in early 2014 and hit his skull. Doctors said he would never walk again, but less than a year after becoming paralyzed, he not only walked onto, but jumped off of, a diving board.

None of these stories would be possible without the help of, and training by, the best doctors and nurses in the area. In this issue we also bring readers the Best Doctors 2020 list, and the 2019 Nurse of the Year winners.

This is 2020: A time to start anew. We hope these stories inspire you to exercise more, quit smoking, lose weight, volunteer, or anything else you resolve to do this year.


This letter was printed in the January/February 2020 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Daisy Hutzell-Rodman 2019 A+C