Chiefs Coin Toss Captains: A Win for Patients

Physicians and staff from The University of Kansas Health System always take pride in being the official healthcare provider for the Kansas City Chiefs. This year, some of our patients got involved too.

As coin-toss captains.

It's the first time our organization has participated in the pregame ritual - providing the opportunity to participate as a way to honor someone at the Kansas City Chiefs 10 home games, including 2 in the preseason. And so they did. Unlike throwing out the ceremonial (and nail-biting) first pitch at Royals games, Chiefs coin-toss captains' responsibilities were fairly calm affairs: Watch the teams warm-up from the sidelines, walk to the middle of the field with KC Wolf, shake hands with players, look up to see their names and images broadcast throughout the stadium's massive video screens, and then witness the all-important flipping of the coin to determine which team receives the ball first.

Simple, and yet the ceremony helped spotlight patients and their lifesaving caregivers. Each week a different health awareness topic was highlighted. Patients and their physicians also were interviewed live on KCTV5’s Better KC morning show, telling the patient's story and educating viewers on the health awareness topic.

Coin-toss captains

Aug. 15 – Tina Hillhouse survived stage III squamous cell carcinoma, caused by human papillomavirus HPV. Before the preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks, she was joined on the field by Kiran Kakarala, MD, to help raise awareness of HPV and the HPV vaccine. Read Hillhouse's story.

Sept. 1 – Claire Long, from Shawnee Mission East High School, helped call attention to concussion awareness. Before the game against the Green Bay Packers, she was joined on the field by David Smith, MD, who serves on our health system’s concussion leadership team. Read her story and watch a video with Long and Smith.

Sept. 11 – Representatives from the Kansas City Fire Department and Dan Hudson, our health system’s emergency medical services liaison, commemorated the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks at the start of the game against the San Diego Chargers. See their photo from the game.

Sept. 25 – Seth Zegunis, a Blue Valley Northwest High School sophomore and offensive/defensive lineman, helped call attention to sports medicine and the value of athletic trainers and physicians working closely with high school teams. Seth's family and Heidi Garcia, a physical therapist with our health system’s Sports Medicine and Performance Center, joined him on the field before the game. Read Seth’s story and see their photo from the game.

Oct. 23 – Ashley Gorney's coaching and competitive instincts kicked in to help her fight breast cancer. While undergoing chemotherapy, surgery and radiation at The University of Kansas Cancer Center, Gorney – a mother of 2, Spanish teacher and volleyball coach – continued to work full time, inspiring her physicians and staff. Read her story and see her photo from the game.

Nov. 6 – Chief Medical Officer Lee Norman, MD, served as the honorary coin toss captain before the Chiefs’ "Salute to Service" game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Read more about Norman’s role as both a civilian and a solider and see his photo from the game (with general surgery’s John Alley, MD).

Nov. 20 – As a nonsmoker, Christy Fischer has battled lung cancer 3 times in the last 10 years. She and Chao Huang, MD, her oncologist at The University of Kansas Cancer Center, served as honorary coin toss captains for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game to help raise awareness of lung cancer. Read her inspiring story and see their photo from the game.

Nov. 26 – Damesha Seawood arrived at our hospital 8 hours after suffering a stroke, but thanks to efforts by neurointerventionalist Michael Abraham, MD, and others on the stroke team, she and Abraham were honored as coin-toss captains before the game against the Oakland Raiders. Read her story and see an interview with Seawood and Abraham on KCTV-5.

Dec. 18 – Leslie Bayer and Ashley Simmons, MD, medical director of the Adelaide C. Ward Women's Heart Health Center, helped raise awareness of women's heart health. Bayer was prompted to see a cardiologist about her own heart health after her sister unexpectedly lost her life to heart disease. Read Bayer's story.

Dec. 25 – At the start of the Christmas day game against the Denver Broncos, Conor Rock, a two-time liver transplant patient, and Timothy Schmitt, MD, medical director of transplantation, helped increase awareness of organ donation. Rock is a nursing associate on our hospital’s transplant unit (Unit 64) and helps people in his own situation every day. He expects to graduate in May from nursing school. Read his story and see their photo from the game.

After the game, Rock confided that his goal as coin toss captain primarily was to not stumble on the way to the 50-yard line. The highlight? Denver linebacker Von Miller listened to Rock's story being broadcast over the stadium, then called him by name and wished him well during their handshake.

Jan. 15 – Over the course of a few years, Jimmie Hill began to lose his trademark energy. He was diagnosed with heart failure. Medication and treatments helped, but his health continued to decline. With the help of an implantable device called a left ventricular assist device, Hill enjoyed a longer life and served as the honorary coin toss captain before the Chiefs playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Read his story here.

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