Chants follow historic win with special hospital visit

ccubase-kidsThe Coastal Carolina baseball team, fresh off its win over #1 Florida Sunday night, took time Monday morning to visit the Nebraska Medical Center and its pediatric patients.

“This was a great experience today,” said senior Anthony Marks. “This opportunity really means a lot to everybody on this team. I’m pretty sure they enjoyed it, but I think we may have enjoyed it a little more. To see them hit and throw, do things they probably don’t get to do very much and have such huge smiles on their faces was just amazing.

“Some of these kids hit the ball further than I personally can. We need to sign them up to play left field for us,” Marks continued. “For all the things they are dealing with, in the long run, they are still just kids and want to laugh and have fun just like everyone else. We hope that just for a little while today, we helped the kids forget about their troubles and have fun. They deserve that as much as anybody.”

The Nebraska Medical Center was specifically selected due to its direct connection with Coastal Carolina athletics. Ten years ago, CCU director of athletics Matt Hogue sent his newborn daughter Caroline to Omaha for a life-saving transplant.

Caroline was born with non-functioning intestines. Her body couldn’t process food normally and she was fed through an IV. Caroline needed a small bowel transplant to survive.

“Obviously, this place, Omaha and the Nebraska Medical Center, holds a special place in our hearts and for what they have done for Caroline, saving her life,” Hogue said. “It’s been an awesome place to be affiliated with over the years. We always knew in the back of our minds that if the baseball team could make it here, it would be perfect to bring our players here. This is a dream come true.”

Laura, Matt’s wife, and Caroline moved to Omaha and waited five months for a match. On September 8, 2006, Nebraska Medicine transplant surgeon Wendy Grant, MD, performed a small bowel transplant on then 1-year-old Caroline. Following the procedure, Caroline and Laura stayed in Omaha for another five months while Caroline recovered.

“At the time, only three hospitals in the entire country could help her,” says Laura. “When we flew to Omaha and visited Nebraska Medicine, we knew this was exactly the place our daughter needed to be. We call Omaha our ‘home away from home.’”

On Monday, the Chanticleer baseball team visited “MY HOSPITAL,” as Caroline put it and she led the team on a tour. The main lobby of the hospital was set up like a baseball diamond and the Chanticleers played baseball, played catch and just took time to enjoy the company of numerous pediatric patients. Also, a group of players were taken to another area to visit those who were unable to come to “the baseball diamond.”

“I’ve said many times that this team will be one of my most memorable,” said Coastal Carolina head coach Gary Gilmore. “Yes, they are talented and are the first Chanticleers to reach the College World Series. But they may also be the finest group of young men I’ve ever coached. They are a tight brotherhood and they do all the right things. They do a wonderful job in the community, namely the Miracle League, and they aren’t just here today doing this visit today because they have to. They genuinely enjoy interacting with kids and are wonderful representatives of Coastal Carolina University,”

Nebraska Medicine is home to one of the most reputable and well-known organ transplant programs in the country. Since 1970, its nationally and internationally renowned specialists have performed thousands of heart, liver, kidney, pancreas, lung and intestinal transplants. Nebraska Medicine is one of a few institutions nationwide to offer all solid organ transplants under one roof.

“I am so inspired by what these kids are going through,” said Connor Owings, who himself is battling kidney disease and will eventually require a transplant. “It is going to be hard for me when the time comes for me (to have my transplant). I am grown up and these kids are under 10. I can’t imagine what they are going through. It is really inspiring and gives me a new outlook. I hope to have the same strength and courage they have.”

Photo courtesy of CCU Athletics

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