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Coastal Carolina celebrating the life of Carolina Hogue

OMAHA, Neb. -- Caroline Hogue tells her parents, Matt and Laura Hogue, that she plans to attend the University of Nebraska to study nursing and biomedical engineering.

She wants to help people and to make a difference in the field -- and she wants it to happen near the hospital that provided her with a chance to live.

Caroline, 10, underwent a small bowel transplant in September 2006 at Nebraska Medicine, the Omaha facility associated with the University of Nebraska Medical Center. With her parents and 12-year-old sister, Rachel, Caroline has spent much of the past two weeks back in Nebraska.

Her father, Matt, is the Coastal Carolina athletic director. The Chanticleers have won four games at the College World Series and face elimination Tuesday night against Arizona in the best-of-three CWS finals (8 ET, ESPN).

Nearly 10 years ago, Caroline beat far greater odds to win a battle of more significance.

"They provided us a life-saving miracle," Matt Hogue said. "There have been ups and downs, but she's almost 10 years post-transplant, and basically everything is normal in how goes about her daily life."

Caroline is set to begin fifth grade this year. She participates in gymnastics and has played basketball and softball. She handles a few dietary restrictions but serves as a major success story and an inspiration to many who learn of her story.

Just ask Coastal Carolina right fielder Connor Owings, the Big South Player of the Year and recent draft pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Owings suffers from a kidney condition that will eventually require him to receive a transplant. (His mother, Sherri, is a match for Connor.)

"You'd never know anything happened to her," Connor Owings said of Caroline. "It's very inspirational. I see it in her spirit. She's such a happy little girl. She loves the Chants, and she loves to come support us.

"It's great when I get to see her after a game and give her hugs."

Matt and Laura Hogue knew of a medical issue with Caroline before her August 2005 birth. She spent 45 days as a newborn in intensive care in Columbia, South Carolina, as her parents searched for answers. Caroline was diagnosed with Berdon syndrome and endured difficulty with her bladder and colon in addition to major intestinal problems.

"She wasn't supposed to survive," said Matt Hogue, then an associate AD at Coastal Carolina and broadcaster for the Chanticleers' baseball, football and basketball games.

The Hogues discovered the transplant program at Nebraska Medicine, sending Laura and Caroline to live in Omaha in April 2006 for placement on a waiting list. Dr. Wendy Grant performed the surgery on Sept. 8 on that year. Caroline returned home in February 2007.

Matt Hogue, promoted from interim AD to the permanent position in February 2015, has long desired a return to Omaha with coach Gary Gilmore's team, whose rise to prominence accelerated after Caroline's recovery.

"We became so familiar with this city and how it embraces the College World Series," Hogue said Monday night from the Coastal Carolina suite behind home plate during the third inning. "It became more of a goal for me to make it."

On June 18 in the Omaha Baseball Village outside of TD Ameritrade Park, the Hogues helped register organ donors at a Nebraska Medicine drive. Caroline gave away towels and sunscreen told potential donors of her story.

Two days later, the Coastal Carolina players and coaches visited Nebraska Medicine. Caroline remembers nothing about her first stay there, of course, but she carries a "connection and affinity" to the hospital, Matt Hogue said.

She led the Chanticleers through the doors. Many of the doctors and nurses who treated Caroline in 2006 and on return visits greeted them.

Matt Hogue described the reunion with Dr. Grant as "over-the-top emotional."

"I think it was for Dr. Grant, too," Hogue said, "because, obviously, being in her position, you see all different outcomes. To see Caroline is incredibly fulfilling. It was a happy time. She wasn't coming there to get treatment like so many other of the pediatric transplant patients.

"This trip has been 12 days of heaven. To have my family here and tie it all together, you couldn't ask for a better story."