Dr. Mathews, a man for all (sports) seasons

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Monty Mathews, M.D., assistant professor of family medicine, is on duty. He’s not wearing a white coat. He’s not wearing scrubs. He’s wearing a baseball cap, emblazoned with a Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks “O.”

The doc is on duty on a soccer sideline, Caniglia Field, on the UNO campus. He stands with trainers, with coaches, with players (the subs), looking out onto the field. On the green faux-grass, Division I college soccer is being played, bodies slamming, tendons straining, lungs screaming. Mastodons vs. Mavs.

In soccer, players often go down, and go down hard.

In soccer, players often go down, and go down hard.

A young boy, wearing a Jr. Mavericks soccer jersey, also was there on the sideline as a special treat. “I didn’t know sports teams had doctors,” the boy said.

As long as Dr. Mathews has anything to say about it, they do.

And he spends a good deal of his free time making sure that they do.

“It’s my passion,” he said. “My hobby.” His real job is here at UNMC, but this is how he spends his weekends and nights.

And thanks to the season we’re in, his volunteer workload is heavy on UNO men’s and women’s basketball and hockey.

But Dr. Mathews is also the team doctor for the Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers baseball team. When they won the pennant, “I was out there when they were squirting the champagne,” Dr. Mathews said.

Dr. Mathews, along with a comprehensive med center team, worked the NORECA continental volleyball championship in Omaha.

Dr. Mathews, along with a comprehensive med center team, worked the NORECA volleyball championship in Omaha.

And when the minor-league football Omaha Nighthawks were in business, he was on their sideline, too.

He’s worked marathons and rodeos. He’s at every Brownell-Talbot football game.

These days, more and more sports teams are entering into partnership relationships with orthopedic clinics, and that makes sense. A good deal of sports medicine is knees and shoulders, ligaments and bones.

But then, a good deal of it isn’t. And it also makes sense to have a good old-fashioned primary care, family medicine doc there, too.

That’s why Dr. Mathews keeps showing up.

For instance, all this talk about concussions? “I feel very comfortable evaluating head injuries,” he said. Not every M.D. does.

He’s undergone special training to become a Credentialed ImPACT Consultant (CIC).

Dr. Mathews is not the only practitioner at the med center doing sports medicine. There’s a whole team, headed by athletic trainer Rusty McKune, The Nebraska Medical Center’s sports medicine program coordinator. And providers from UNMC, TNMC and UNMC Physicians have staffed national athletic events in Omaha, like the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, the USA Swimming Olympic Trials and the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation (NORCECA) Continental volleyball championship.

Dr. Mathews works closely with other practitioners, like UNO men's soccer trainer Philip Dennie (in black coat).

Dr. Mathews works closely with other practitioners, like UNO men’s soccer trainer Philip Dennie (in black coat).

They all work together, the way Dr. Mathews works with athletic trainers and orthopedic docs.

The Mavericks have a great training staff, in this case, Phil Dennie. Dennie and his fellow trainers could easily handle 95 percent of what might come up during the game. But that five percent left over?

“I can handle 90 percent of that,” Dr. Mathews said.

Meaning, he could initially evaluate, diagnose and treat nine out of 10 of the injuries the training staff would ask him to look at. Beyond that, he would ask for assistance from emergency personnel or other specialists if athletes needed to be transported to the hospital for central nervous system, spine, major bleeding or complex orthopedic injuries.

Luckily, at the soccer game, none of it comes up.

If you're at a sporting event in Omaha, there's a chance Dr. Mathews is there, too.

If you’re at a sporting event in Omaha, there’s a chance Dr. Mathews is there, too.

But it wasn’t his only appointment of the night. He also was set to be the team doc at the Mavericks’ hockey game down at CenturyLink Center. Would he have to hurry?

Doctors know better than to hurry.

“I’ll have to be efficient about it,” was the way he put it. And he was. After it was over, after the Mavericks had won 4-0, Dr. Mathews double checked with the training staff, to make sure there wasn’t anyone he needed to look at. Then he did the same with the visiting team. And then he was gone. Off to his next sideline. Off to make sure another sports team had a doctor in the house.

B&F is going to pump(kin) you up!

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Look at the Jack-o-lantern above. Spooky and brand-compliant! The world’s scariest walrus.

We bring you this picture, and others, because Business and Finance recently held a pumpkin-carving contest. No, scratch that. Business and Finance held a PUMPKIN CARVING CONTEST. This was not your average Halloween contest. This wasn’t just a zigzag smile in an orange gourd. These people really went all-out.

Consider a few of the contenders …

Imagine you thought you'd entered a pumpkin-carving contest, and found out you were going up against THIS.

Imagine you thought you’d entered a pumpkin-carving contest, and found out you were going up against THIS. That’s not a pumpkin carving, that’s performance art. Now, look at this one:

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Your call is important to us.

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Cats doing yoga. Yes — cats doing yoga. Now you know this contest just got serious.

How about this one — any Michael Keaton-themed pumpkin is OK with me:

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If only there had been a “Night Shift” pumpkin.

Hold on, it’s getting a little spooky. I think I’ll call security.


Or maybe this is a job for a true superhero — Pumpkin Kenny Bell.

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Apparently Pumpkin Kenny prefers a 2 p.m. kickoff.

And these are just a few of the crazy-good pumpkins created by the good folks at Business and Finance. There were many more.

So, who won? Well, Cassandra Recek from Facilities Management and Planning won the “individual” title for this one, below (in addition to the raven, there were some cool bats on the back):

pumpkin raven

And, as you can tell below, the “group” winner was a true group effort. It seems the whole team from fifth floor, Business Services, made an appearance (click on the photo for a larger version):

BF Floor 5 Pumkin

Have a spooky night. Happy Halloween!

Man Raising Awareness for Organ Donation Stumbles Upon UNMC

Don Erickson was walking down Leavenworth Street on Thursday morning when he looked up and saw three words that made him stop. Lied Transplant Center. You see, Erickson wasn’t just out for a stroll in Omaha. The 55-year-old is on a trek across the country. By foot. He’s walking the approximately 3,300 miles to raise awareness for organ donation.

donedit A good friend’s brother died after complications from a grand mal seizure. Because of the Y on the man’s driver’s license and his family’s verbal yes, Joe Rethmeier saved five lives with his organs. He improved more than 50 with his tissues and skin.

One of those lives was that of an elderly woman who needed new corneas. The woman’s husband had Alzheimer’s disease. Upon receiving the gift of sight, she was able to renew her driver’s license and remain the primary caretaker of her husband.  And he was able to remain home with her.

Stories like this are what sparked Organ Donation Awareness: One Mile at a Time.

Along the way, Erickson encountered a bear in New Jersey. (Get big and roar. Erickson said that made the bear scamper back into the woods.) He’s also thrown out the first pitch at a Minnesota Twins game. (He still gets goose bumps when he talks about it.) He gets by on beef jerky, almonds, peanut butter and a whole lotta pop tarts.

Erickson started in New York in June and will be halfway home when he reaches Kansas. The goal is to make it to Arizona by Christmas to spend the holidays with his youngest son, and California by the end of January. Prior to the start, a friend bet him that Erickson would want to quit at least 100 times by the time it was over. Erickson says he wanted to quit 100 times before he reached Iowa.

But he didn’t. And he won’t, because of people like Dillon in Ohio. And Alan in Indiana. And Charley in Iowa, whom he met last week outside of Avoca. Charley is a young heart transplant recipient, who read about a guy trekking across the country to support organ donation in her transplant newsletter a couple weeks ago. Imagine her mother’s surprise when she happened upon Erickson while driving around Avoca.

“All three of us are in shock that nothing but fate has brought us to this meeting,” Robin Butler recalled on her Facebook page. “We will never forget the man walking for such an amazing cause.”

“Just seeing Charley smile and to see how happy her mom was…. it made it all worth it,” Erickson said, adding that he misses his family dearly, especially girlfriend Val.

An electrician by trade who flips homes on the side, Erickson said he’s learned two main lessons on his journey.

Number one: expect the unexpected. Erickson’s had his phone stolen, his wallet taken, met a man who believed he was Moses and twice abandoned his belongings to jump in the ditch and avoid cars.

“Texting and driving,” Erickson lamented. “My next walk might be on that.”

Lesson No. 2. People are kind. Total strangers hand him $10 and $20 bills. Churches and fire departments open their doors for a place to stay, though he camps most nights.

At UNMC, we treated him to a hot lunch of chicken and dumplings in the Nebraska Café. Lisa Spellman in Public Relations arranged for him to meet liver transplant recipient and UNMC employee Dave Eggers. Debb Anderson heard what was happening and went straight to the top. Mere hours after arriving at the med center, none other than the chief of transplant surgery himself, Alan Langnas, D.O., gave Erickson a tour of the Lied.


Pictured are transplant surgeons Dr. Rubin Quiros (left) and Dr. Alan Langnas with Don Erickson.

The weary traveler was so impressed he booked an open hotel room for the night. He said he won’t soon forget his experience at the med center. It was everything he hoped for when he stopped his cart earlier that morning and looked up.


Don Erickson by the numbers

6 – the number of months of research Don did prior to his departure

3 or 4 – the number of pairs of boots he expects to go through by the time he’s done

1,000+ – number of business cards he’s handed out

2 – the number of miles per hour he walks

3,500 – the number of dollars he’s spent on hotels, food, supplies, etc. thus far

17-18 – the number of miles he averages per day

600 – the number of gloves he’s spotted on the side of the road. He started posting pictures of them on his Facebook page. Joe Rethmeier’s mother has a theory: they’re high fives from heaven, sent by her son.

515-745-0409 – Don Erickson’s cell phone number, where an inspirational text to “keep on keepin’ on” is always welcome.