Archive for June, 2017

From Transplant to the NICU, Family Relies on Nebraska Medicine


Phil Sauvageau (pictured in black) visits his daughter and grandson in the NICU at Nebraska Medicine.

For the Sauvageau family, “Serious Medicine. Extraordinary Care.” isn’t just a slogan. They’ve witnessed it time and time again at Nebraska Medicine.

On January 24, 2016, Phil Sauvageau received the first lung transplant with Nebraska Medicine’s reignited program. For years, Phil struggled with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a disease that causes scarring of the lungs, often resulting in respiratory failure. Because there is no cure for IPF, Phil’s only option for survival was a lung transplant.

“The surgery went very smoothly with no significant complications,” says Aleem Siddique, MD, surgical director of lung transplantation. “It was a very exciting time for Phil.”

A few months after receiving his transplant, Phil walked his daughter Michelle down the aisle at her April wedding.

“My dad also sang me a beautiful song that he wrote, and we had that special father-daughter dance I’d always dreamed of,” says Michelle Gleason. “I’m so thankful to the family that donated life to my dad and the amazing doctors, nurses and staff at Nebraska Medicine.”

Little did Michelle know at the time, but she’d soon be the one in need of medical care. One week after celebrating their first wedding anniversary, Michelle and her husband Eric were preparing for the birth of their son – two months earlier than planned.


Michelle Gleason holds her newborn son in the NICU at Nebraska Medicine.

Nebraska Medicine OB/GYN Sonja Kinney, MD, diagnosed Michelle with preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure. Michelle was on bed rest for nearly a week before Nebraska Medicine OB/GYN Laura Cudzilo-Kelsey, MD, performed an emergency c-section on April 23. Banner Gleason weighed 2 pounds, 8 ounces and was rushed to the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

“NICU medical director Ann Anderson Berry, MD, talked us through the whole thing,” says Michelle. “Everyone in the NICU has been wonderful – especially the nurses. We watched my dad receive the best care during his lung transplant, so it’s no surprise that Banner and I are receiving the same extraordinary care.”

On May 1, Banner received a special visit in the NICU from Grandpa Phil and Grandma Emily.

“Nebraska Medicine has done so much for our family,” says Phil. “They’ve become our second family. From the transplant team to the NICU, we are very grateful.”

As long as Banner continues to gain weight, Michelle and Eric are hopeful they can take him home by early June.


My Doctor, My Friend

Galen Furstenau

Galen Furstenau is a retired farmer from Tilden, Nebraska.

Finding a doctor you trust is a relief. Finding a doctor who becomes your friend is rewarding. Finding a doctor who saves your life is invaluable. Fortunately, I was able to find all three in the same person – James Armitage, MD, an oncologist/hematologist at Nebraska Medicine.

My relationship with Dr. Armitage goes all the way back to January 2000, when I relapsed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. At the time, I was being treated by a doctor in Norfolk, Neb., until my mother read an article in the Omaha World Herald about Dr. Armitage. She insisted I make an appointment. I called his office and within one week, I was driving to Omaha to see him. The following month, I underwent chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant at Nebraska Medicine. The care was wonderful. The staff handled everything from the appointments, to the paperwork and the insurance. From day one, it was a quick turnaround.

Things were fine until that December when my cancer decided to make another appearance. Obviously, I was disappointed, but Dr. Armitage’s nurse coordinator assured me there were dozens of other treatment options. I felt relieved. This time, Dr. Armitage decided to have me do injections, three times a week. I continued the treatment for nine years. It worked! It was an incredible feeling to hear the word “cured.” Even better than being told you’re in remission. But, little did I know, more health battles were just around the corner.

Oncologist/hematologist James Armitage, MD

In January 2015, while visiting my daughter in Gretna, Neb., I started experiencing stomach pain. By the time paramedics arrived, the pain had subsided. Two weeks later, I started having pain in my esophagus and upper right chest. I went to the emergency department in Norfolk, but they didn’t find anything. Reassured me it wasn’t my heart.

During a trip to California, I ended up having two more episodes. My wife contacted Dr. Armitage, who asked his nurse coordinator to set up appointments with gastroenterologist Dr. Daniel Schafer and cardiologist Dr. Ward Chambers. Both men were colleagues and friends of Dr. Armitage.

When I arrived at Nebraska Medicine, Dr. Chambers recommended I take a stress test. He looked at my heart while it was resting, then while I was on the treadmill. My heart rate wasn’t coming up to where they wanted it. I was also having difficulty catching my breath. The nurse had a very concerned look on her face. They put me in a wheelchair and I went straight to the cath lab. That’s where they discovered I desperately needed a three-way bypass. I was at risk for a widow maker heart attack — the kind few people survive.

A few days later, cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Aleem Siddique performed the surgery. My wife, Debbie, was very worried, but I went into it knowing everything was going to be okay. My mind was good. I knew I was in the best hands possible.

The morning after surgery, Dr. Armitage came to see me. He brought 5-6 interns with him and shared my story. He told them I was a “model patient” who had been through a lot. That visit meant the world to me – it’s hard to put into words. A few days later, I returned home. It took about three months before I was feeling “normal” again.

Galen and Debbie

Some people say I’ve been on quite a trip. It’s not a trip anyone looks forward to, but looking back on it, there’s not a single part I regret. I’ve been able to weather the physical and mental pain very well. Yes, mental.

Because of everything I’ve been through, Dr. Armitage recommended I speak with another friend of his – Nebraska Medicine psychiatrist Dr. Carl Greiner. I have to admit, I’m not proud that I’m doing it, but I’m also not ashamed. My thoughts on psychiatry have totally changed. If you need help – seek it. It’s comforting to have someone there who can take the time to listen.

I can’t say enough good things about Nebraska Medicine. This place is very special to me. We’re lucky to have an extraordinary facility like this in Nebraska. I consider Dr. Armitage not only my doctor – but my friend. When I need anything, Dr. Armitage is there. I try to schedule a visit with him once every six months.

I love coming back to see the people that saved my life. I also enjoy sharing my story. Once a month, I volunteer at the med center’s cancer clinic. I visit with patients and try to offer hope. Cancer isn’t a word anyone likes to hear, but I encourage people to seek treatment.

I owe my life to Dr. Armitage. Without him, I wouldn’t be here for Debbie, our four kids and 13 grandchildren. I often think back to that first newspaper article my late mother read about Dr. Armitage. If the cancer hadn’t come back, if the heart problem didn’t occur, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I think my story has turned out pretty well and I can’t wait to see what the next chapter will bring.

Galen’s family in Tilden, Nebraska.

Why Nebraska Medicine for Pancreatic Cancer Care?

Pancreatic cancer can be difficult to detect and diagnose. Nebraska Medicine has a team of specialists experienced in treating pancreatic cancer and a variety of other pancreas-related illnesses. They will arm you with the ideal treatment plan for you.

Why Nebraska Medicine for Pancreatic Cancer Care?


We have cancer doctors who specialize in treating pancreatic cancer. Their experience and knowledge will ensure that you receive an accurate diagnosis and the most advanced, up-to-date therapies. Our cancer specialists are known for their ability to treat the most complex cases with the best possible prognosis. Patients undergoing cancer treatment at Nebraska Medicine also have access to our 24/7 Infusion Center at the Peggy D. Cowdery Patient Care Center, which serves as both a treatment center and 24/7 urgent-care-type facility. A rare offering in the region.

A Nuanced Diagnosis

The majority of pancreatic cancers are pancreatic adenocarcinoma, a cancer that starts in the glands of the pancreas. While other types of pancreatic cancer are quite rare, each type behaves uniquely and is treated very differently, so making an accurate diagnosis with a biopsy is very important. Our cancer specialists have the experience and expertise to stack the odds of a correct diagnosis the first time in your favor, so you get the treatment you need.

A Team Approach

At Nebraska Medicine, we bring specialists from a variety of medical disciplines together, multiplying exponentially the likelihood of an accurate diagnosis for you. The options for treating pancreatic cancer typically include drugs (chemotherapy), surgery and radiation therapy depending on your type of pancreatic cancer.

We’re involved in the latest research.

There is a lot of research happening, both around the world and here at Nebraska Medicine to improve the detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer. Our doctors are involved in pancreatic cancer research and clinical trials. By coming to Nebraska Medicine, you will have access to the latest treatments and therapies in clinical trials if you qualify, before they become available to the general public. See what trials related to pancreatic cancer are currently underway.

Addressing Your Personal Care Needs

Addressing a patient’s physical, educational, emotional and spiritual needs are important aspects of providing a more complete and holistic approach to care. A host of amenities and supportive services are available to help meet these needs. This includes personal care services such as wigs, wig fittings, prosthetic and bra fittings, yoga, massage therapy, skin care and make-up lessons specifically geared for people with or recovering from cancer are also provided in a private setting.

Cancer Support Services

Finding out that you have cancer can be a very emotional and difficult time. You will likely have many questions and issues to work through. We will be with you every step of the way. Nebraska Medicine offers a host of cancer support services to help you with your physical, emotional, educational and financial needs.

We’re Here for you Long After Your Treatment

Our Survivorship Clinic is designed to help you deal with the emotional and physical challenges cancer can leave behind such as fear of recurrence, physical and medical long-term side effects and helping you return to a normal life again. It will also help you transition back into the care of your primary care physician.

Accreditations and Awards

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska Blue Distinction Center+

Blue Distinction Centers and Blue Distinction Centers+ have a proven history of delivering exceptional care and results. Nebraska Medicine has received Blue Distinction in pancreatic cancer care.

Biden: ‘I Hope Other Institutions Follow Your Lead’


Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden called the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center a “remarkable facility” during Tuesday’s dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new facility.

“I’m not sure I can fulfill what I feel in my heart about the commitment all of you have made to deal with this dreaded disease,” he told the audience of health care professionals, elected officials, community leaders and members of the UNMC community.

“I’ll bet almost every one of you in this audience has been touched by cancer,” he said. “Either you personally, a family member, a husband, wife or child — someone you love, somebody close to you. Cancer is in a sense a communal disease — no one family member contracts the disease that the entire family doesn’t feel the consequences. So that’s why I think what you’re doing here is so, so important.”

Omaha philanthropist Susie Buffett introduced Biden, who lauded the way the cancer center came together, pointing to the significant philanthropy of Pamela Buffett and others. “It is really a credit to the community,” he said.

Biden, who spoke shortly after Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, gave an emotional tribute to nurses — “I am a Democrat, the mayor’s a Republican, but I love her, because you know why? She was a nurse before this.”

5-24 Biden ceremony

He also spoke of his son’s battle with cancer — the former vice president’s son, Beau, died of brain cancer in 2015 at age 46, and Biden has said he will spend the rest of his life fighting to eradicate the disease. He talked of the Cancer Moonshot initiative he championed, his new Biden Cancer Initiative, and his hopes for advancements in the battle against cancer.

“There’s a renewed momentum, and there’s a whole lot of renewed hope,” he said. “Apart from what we did in the White House, there’s a real excitement around the country about the moonshot because we started a program in the White House that has become a movement well beyond the White House, well beyond government,” he said.

Biden said it meant a great deal to him to celebrate the opening of “this remarkable facility” and to recognize the Buffett family’s commitment to the fight against cancer.

“In addition to the state-of-the-art research facility and the brilliant researchers and clinicians that are going to occupy these halls, you are obviously a completely patient-oriented center, just by the physical design of this place,” he said. “I hope many, many patients who will get treated here will get well in this place, and I hope other institutions follow your lead – and more and more are — in terms of patient-oriented treatment.”

The effect of the center already has reached beyond Nebraska, he said.

“We have to update our strategy to the 21st century . . . I hope the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center will be the forefront of that change.”

“Collaboration is the key,” he added. “We need to come together and break down these siloes that exist out there now, to best care for patients.”

Vice President Biden understands that the cancer center is a transformational force, said UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD.

“The Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center will house the future of cancer research, clinical care and education,” Dr. Gold said. “It is a true integration of science and medicine, and of UNMC and Nebraska Medicine.”

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden entered the building with Pamela Buffett.

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden entered the building with Pamela Buffett.

“Vice President Biden recognizes that potential here and we’re honored to have his presence,” said Daniel DeBehnke, MD, MBA, Nebraska Medicine CEO. “This journey began many years ago with a vision of creating a new way of integrating cancer research and treatment into the care of cancer patients. Look around you — that vision has become a reality. We are truly fortunate to live in a place like Omaha, where philanthropists, business leaders, elected officials and regular folk can share in a common vision and work together to achieve a lofty goal.

“There has never been anything like the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center before,” he said.

Mayor Stothert called the center a commitment to saving lives.

“The City of Omaha is proud to partner with the University of Nebraska Medical Center in this impressive facility. The research and care that will take place here will impact Omaha, our state, our county and our world,” she said. “It will impact patients and families and futures. In 2014, Nebraska Medicine and UNMC became internationally known for world-class health care during the Ebola crisis. We will now proudly build on that reputation as the groundbreaking facility in the fight against cancer.”

Hank Bounds, PhD, president of the University of Nebraska, said the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center was about partnerships.

“This is a journey we have been on together,” he said. “The university, the city, the county, the state of Nebraska, incredibly generous private donors, and truly citizens from across our state.

“This is what’s possible when we put our shared ideas, our passion, our commitment and our resources to work for the benefit of Nebraskans.

“We’re setting a new standard in patient-focused care,” he said. “This center represents new hope for Nebraskans whose lives have been impacted by this terrible disease.”

Dr. Gold thanked the governmental officials in attendance, as well as the organizations and individuals who had supported the center.

“We cannot thank you enough for your investment in our future,” Dr. Gold told Pamela Buffett, who with her late husband Fred lent their names to the center. He thanked other founding benefactors as well. Founding benefactors are Pamela Buffett (Rebecca Susan Buffett Foundation), Suzanne and Walter Scott Foundation, and CL & Rachel Werner. Distinguished benefactors are: Clarkson Regional Health Services, Mary & Dick Holland, Peter Kiewit Foundation, Robert B. Daugherty Foundation, and Ruth and Bill Scott.

The presentation included a video of cancer patients, who also attended the event, sharing stories of their experiences at Nebraska Medicine and their enthusiasm for the new Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center.

“That’s my center,” one of them said in the video.

“This magnificent new cancer center is all about making people’s lives better,” said Ken Cowan, MD, PhD, director, Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center.

Watch Joe Biden’s speech below.