Time out with T.O. - That's what friends are for

by Tom O'Connor, UNMC strategic communications (retired) | September 14, 2020

Image with caption: Ted Mikuls, MD

Ted Mikuls, MD

They first met 34 years ago as incoming freshmen living in Swig Residence Hall at Santa Clara University.

Two came from California and became attorneys; the other came from Nebraska and became a physician.

picture disc.
Ted Mikuls, MD, with a shipment of masks from his fellow SCU alumni

They went their separate ways after college -- the attorneys wound up in Los Angeles and Hong Kong, while the physician returned to Omaha.

One thing never changed -- their friendship.

When the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world this spring, the two attorneys -- Sean Kneafsey of Los Angeles and Todd Rahimi of Hong Kong -- knew their buddy in Omaha, Ted Mikuls, MD, could use their help.

They started a GoFundMe page targeting Santa Clara alums on Facebook to raise money for protective face masks to send to Dr. Mikuls, the Umbach Professor of Rheumatology and vice chair of research for the UNMC Department of Internal Medicine.

The Santa Clara community responded -- in a big way. Within 15 minutes, they had raised $4,000. By the time they turned the page off, a total of $13,440 was raised -- enough to buy 5,000 KN95 protective masks.

"Ted is extremely smart and has a photographic memory," Kneafsey said. "The GoFundMe response is such a tribute to Ted. It's a rare combination to have that great a guy with that big of a brain. They rarely come together."

Rahimi added, "It's a real testament to how our friends feel about Ted -- and more generally to how the community at large feels about the work of medical professionals on the front lines of this battle.

"I am sure doctors tire of questions from friends and family about health issues, but Ted has always been a person who encourages such questions and provides answers willingly."

Dr. Mikuls, who is leading a task force on COVID-19 clinical guidance for patients with rheumatic diseases for the American College of Rheumatology, was blown away by the gesture.

"A huge thank you to my Santa Clara family -- and a shout out to Sean and Todd for organizing -- and to everyone else who donated," Dr. Mikuls said. "I am extraordinarily grateful."

The masks arrived on May 6, and Dr. Mikuls delivered them immediately to the Nebraska Medicine supply warehouse.

"The masks were a godsend, as we were short of personal protective equipment at the time," Dr. Mikuls said. "I have no doubt they were put to good use."

Since graduating from Santa Clara, Kneafsey and Rahimi and other SCU friends have made several trips to Omaha to visit Ted and other Omaha buddies.

"Ted ensured we saw all the highlights, including Gorat's, the Family Fun Center on Dodge Street, and -- of course -- The 18th Amendment," Rahimi said.

"I love Omaha," said Kneafsey, who includes the College World Series among his favorites. "I love the Old Market."

The bottom line, Kneafsey said, is that friends look after each other.

"We were fast friends. We were a tight group from a smaller college."

But, like a true friend, he couldn't resist delivering an amicable jab to Dr. Mikuls.

"You know, I like to say that I tutored Ted in biology."

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Patty Davis
September 14, 2020 at 7:10 AM

This is such a heartwarming story! And it highlights the bonds that are made during college and medical school! Dr. Mikuls is a wonderful physician, a down-to-earth person, and a wonderful asset to UNMC and the Omaha community!