Advocate Christ honors Heights comeback kid for super rehab

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

  Four-year-old Alex Muller, of Palos Heights, had just enjoyed a few days at Disney World with his family back in early May.
  He met Mickey Mouse.
  He loved Splash Mountain.
  On the plane ride home, his dad, Robert, mother, Lisa, sister, Amanda, and brother, Anthony, were all looking forward to getting back to their normal routine.
  That didn’t happen.
  As the plane started its descent, Alex wasn’t looking, or feeling, too good. And that started a night, and months, of hell for the family.
  “We gave him some Starburst candy on the way down,” Robert said. “He started drooling. He did walk off the plane and when we were walking todoulbe-run-color-2-col-AlexAlex Muller. photo by Jeff Vorva. the car he said his legs were tired. We got him in the car and on the way home he threw up. He walked from the car back to the house but fell right by the door and started screaming that he couldn’t get up. That’s when Lisa picked him up and he had that smile where you could see the droop on the left side. So we rushed him to the hospital.”
  Alex suffered a stroke and went through five weeks of rehab at the Advocate Children’s Center in Oak Lawn. The family hopes the worst is over, and now Alex is attending preschool at Indian Hill School.
  Alex was one of five people honored at the 25th annual Advocate Christ Medical Center and Children’s Hospital’s Rehabilitation Achievement Awards Ceremony Sept. 20. He joined a list of honorees that included Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton and Oak Lawn resident Kent Carson.
  Around the Oak Lawn facility, this kid was like a superhero, according to therapist Diana Daniak.
  “Alex’s great determination allowed us as therapists to obtain goals,” she said. “With Super Alex and his super suit and his cape, he literally soared and accomplished any tasks that were set before him. This hospital became and an adventure of his imagination every day.”
  Alex may have not been the picture-perfect patient, but the staff seemed to love having him around.
  “Despite the hair-pulling, biting, kicking and punching, Alex was the highlight of our day and always had a smile on his face,” she said. “And he always put a smile on our face.”
  Daniak lauded the Muller family for its support of Alex and said that Lisa frequently stayed many nights in a pullout bed at the hospital before heading to work.
  “In some ways Alex took all of this better than an adult would,” Lisa said. “He took it better than me. There were times when he needed therapy but didn’t always want to but he did it.”
  “There was a lot of screaming, kicking, yelling and biting,” Robert said. “I have a permanent bite mark. But overall, he went through a lot did a great job.”
  Doctors admitted they were flummoxed by Alex’s condition and looked nationally and internationally before finding a specialist.
  “The miracle part is that he was at infant stage when we started rehab,” Robert said. “He couldn’t hold his head up and had no feeling on his left side. But when we left the hospital he literally walked out. He’s still recovering and every day is something new. We’re learning more every day.
  “He still goes to therapy in the morning,” Robert said. “He goes four days a week. He started preschool at Indian Hill. He has therapy in the morning and therapy at school.”
  Attempts to talk to Alex featured mixed results. Shortly before the ceremony, he was an energetic dynamo who ran and spun around the hallways. When he saw an uncle, Alex was so happy he ran up to him and gave him a playful punch in the solar plexus region.
  When he settled down to answer a few questions, he nodded his head instead of a verbal exchange.
  When Alex was asked if he was happy with his treatment at the hospital, that caused the biggest nod of all.

Safety concerns spark idea of turning Central Junior High into a middle school

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  The decision to transform Central Junior High School in Evergreen Park into a middle school began with some security concerns.
  “It’s kind of an interesting story,” School District 124 Supt. Robert Machak said.
  Machak and Evergreen Park police conducted security audits at each of the district’s five schools shortly after he arrived in the district last year.
  “They walked through every building with me,” Machak said.
  During a tour of Central Junior High, Machak noticed that anyone who entered the doors of the adjacent administrative office could get into the school without being noticed, he said.
  He talked to the school board about securing the entrance, which led to a proposal to swap the administrative offices and junior high library.
  The plan carried a $600,000 price tag, which led school board members to consider other proposals, including transforming the junior high into a middle school.
  The idea has been floated before, but the district never followed through on bringing sixth graders to the junior high, 9400 S. Sawyer Ave., Machak said.
  “The plan sort of evolved,” he said. “Maybe now was the time to revisit bringing the sixth grade over.”
  The board’s facilities committee and met several times with the district’s architect to discuss specifics.
  Accommodating sixth graders means adding 10 to 12 classrooms to the school, which necessitated moving the administrative offices out of the junior high, Machak said.
  The district considered renting office space, but couldn’t find anything that met its needs. It also considered purchasing and renovating a residential property.
  “We looked at everything under the sun,” Machak said.
  Ultimately, the district decided to buy Brady-Gill Funeral Home, 2929 W 87th St.
  The district will use $1 million in reserves and float a $7.5 million bond to pay for the funeral home and fund the renovation of the junior high, Machak said.
  District officials decided against using more of its reserves in case funds were needed for an emergency, said Machak, who added that the bonds will not lead to a property tax increase for district residents
  The first group of sixth graders will attend Central in the 2015-16 school year.
  The school will be renovated after the district offices are relocated next year, Machak said.
  Machak, a middle school principal for 13 years, said the concept will bring many advantages to the district.
  He said a common complaint about the junior high model is that the timeline for students is too fast. They are either arriving in 7th grade or getting ready to graduate the following year. The middle school, on the other hand, allows students to grow and mature over a three-year period.
  Additionally, it gives eighth graders the chance to serve as mentors to the sixth grade class, thereby developing leadership skills.
  “I also think there is a strong academic benefit,” Machak said.
  Also, removing sixth grade from the elementary schools will free up much needed space in those buildings, he said.

Hickory Hills officials investigate yard waste complaints from resident

  • Written by Kelly White


  Yard waste has been accumulatingPage3--2-col-yardThe inconsistent pickup of yard waste on this alleyway in Hickory Hills had one resident angry enough to complain to the city council last Thursday. Photo by Jeff Vorva. in the alleys of Hickory Hills and a resident came forth at last Thursday’s Hickory Hills City Council Meeting with both questions and concerns for the council.

  Mike Mitchell, who said he has been a Hickory Hills resident for more than 23 years, told the council that since the city signed a contract with Waste Management in May, this is the first time he is witnessing this problem.
  “It has happened seven times this summer where I have had yard waste in my alley to be picked up by Waste Management, and the truck did not come down the alley to pick up mine or any of my surrounding neighbor’s yard waste,” he said, “Then it gets to the point where I have to call the company, myself, and tell them to come back because they skipped my house.”
  He lives in the 8200 block of West 93rd Street behind the Dirty Sock Bar and Grill.
  “It’s not necessarily the waste but it is the yard waste that we have a problem with,” Mitchell said. “The truck simply refuses to go down alleyways within the city to pick up yard waste.”
  He added that other residents in his area had similar complaints.
  “I could understand them missing it once in a while, say for example if there was a new driver on the route, but this has happened to me alone seven times,” said Mitchell, who displayed photos of yard waste in his alleyway that he said was previously ignored by Waste Management.
  Alderman Mike McHugh noted on being aware of the alleyway issue. “I have spoken to Bernie (McHugh), Director of Operations at Waste Management, in a recent phone conversation and he plans to speak to his employees in charge of picking up yard waste in our city immediately.”
  Mike McHugh recognized the alleyways often being ignored during waste pickup for yard waste. “For some reason, those trucks just do not like going down those alleys,” he said.
  Mitchell admitted the trucks do not always skip the alleys.
  “[Last Wednesday] they did come down to pick up my yard waste, and alongside a container of grass I had a ten pound tree stump,’’ he said. “Well, they took the container of grass and left the tree stump sitting in the alley. There is no reason why they could not have taken that tree stump.”
  Mitchell also claims Waste Management tossed his yard waste container down the end of the alleyway on multiple occasions and placed a sticker on the container stating, “Place can at curb for service.”
  Mayor Mike Howley stated there is no problem with Mitchell or any resident living with an alleyway behind their home to have their yard waste picked up from the alleyway.
  Director of Waste Management, Bernie McHugh, was not aware of the stickers being placed on the containers or did not give orders for the placement of the stickers, and he also plans to immediately address this issue, Alderman McHugh stated.
  The director has been made aware of prior complaints by residents within Hickory Hills and he has handled them himself and in a prompt manor, Howley assured his residents the alley situation would be no different.
  “There was a time when a resident’s house was skipped during garbage pickup and we called and spoke to Bernie and he came by himself and picked up the garbage. Since then, we have had no further complaints from that resident and I believe he will handle this situation in the similar manner,” Howley said.


It’s a date — Chicago Ridge making fun plans for its centennial celebration

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  Chicago Ridge is moving forward with plans to celebrate its centennial, but needed to resolve one small order of business first: determining the official date of village incorporation.

  Village officials met on Sept. 1, 1914, and voted to incorporate Chicago Ridge. But the paperwork wasn’t filed until October, leading to some confusion about the true date of incorporation.
  The issue was resolved after Village Attorney George Witous did some research at the Secretary of State’s office.
  “Sept. 1, 1914, was the initial date. That is the date of record,” Witous said at Tuesday’s village board meeting.
  “We’re going with the meeting date because that’s when the action was taken,” said Village Clerk George Schleyer.
  Now that the incorporation date is settled, village officials can focus on planning the year-long anniversary celebration.
  Mayor Chuck Tokar recently named seven more people to the committee that will plan the celebration. He said there’s room on the committee for more interested residents.
  “We could probably use another four or five people,” Tokar said. “There are a lot of different chores.”
  The committee will meet at 5:30 p.m. Monday at village hall, 10455 S. Ridgeland Ave.
  Tokar named former mayor Gene Siegel as the honorary chairman of the committee, which will break into subcommittees to plan all phases of the celebration.
  Preliminary plans call for a centennial ball dinner dance, a parade co-sponsored with Worth, a weekend festival, a fire hydrant painting contest, the release of a village history book and a community cook book. The celebration also will feature an eighth grade essay contest and a historical bus tour that will include locations in Worth.
  The village also will open a time capsule buried 25 years ago at the old village hall and bury a new one, Tokar said.
  Tokar said he envisions a community festival that reflects games and recreation popular a century ago, such as an old-time photo booth; watermelon, hot dog and pie-eating contests; horseshoe pitching and children’s games played in early 1900s.
  The village also plans to design an anniversary banner to display on light poles and will hang bunting on village buildings, the train station and gazebo.

Jeff Vorva's Editor's Notebook - These men lost limbs but gained perspective

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


COLOR - Jeff  What is with these guys who get their limbs sliced off?
  Why are they so tough? And why do they have such a positive outlook on life?
  Me? I’m cursing the world and its creator if my computer freezes. These guys who are literally losing an arm and a leg are counting their blessings.
  For 10 years, I knew Cubs legend Ron Santo pretty well. I was covering the Cubs and on a humid afternoon in St. Louis one day many years ago, he talked about how he took a walk in his cowboy boots and developed a blister on the bottom of his foot that “hurt like hell.” He said he was going to have the Cubs trainer look at it.
  Little did any of us know that the blister in question was the beginning of a long medical ordeal that caused him to have both legs amputated. The diabetic also had several internal woes and heart problems that he always seemed to get through.
  We all know everyone is going to die, but for those of us who knew Santo, we were wondering if he was going to be the first tough son of a buck who was going to kick the Grim Reaper in the privates and stay alive forever.
  He did die on 2010 of bladder cancer. Santo — not the Grim Reaper.
  Did Santo complain about his heath? Yeah, once in awhile. But he was mostly positive about living and inspired and helped many others. There is a little walk that’s probably going to have hundreds or thousands participate in coming up in October at Moraine Valley Community College that is named after him.
  And that brings me to another fella I met last week…page-3-COLOR-jvcol-right-photoKent Carson of Oak Lawn poses with — and kisses — therapist Michelle Lamantia of Oak Lawn during Friday’s lunch at Advocate Christ Medical Center prior to an awards ceremony. Carson lost both legs and his left arm last year to Legionnaire’s Disease and was one of five recipients of an award at the hospital’s Rehabilitation Achievement Awards Ceremony. Photo by Jeff Vorva.
  Kent Carson, a short-time Oak Lawn resident, was one of five people honored by Advocate Christ Medical Center and Children’s Hospital on Friday. He won a Rehabilitation Achievement Award.
  On Aug. 4, 2012, he was eating at a restaurant in Chicago Ridge with his fiancée, Cheryl Johnstone. It was hot and humid but after dinner he had the chills. That started a series of events that brought him to various hospitals where he was diagnosed with the potentially fatal Legionnaires Disease
  “The doctor gave me two choices,” Carson said. “He said, ‘Mr. Carson you can either keep your limbs and die or amputate and live.’ ’’
  Mr. Carson chose the amputations.
  The left arm was cut off on Sept. 11, and the two legs were removed three days later. In late September, he celebrated his 56th birthday. Well, “celebrate” isn’t quite the word since he was in a coma and missed the whole thing. But he recovered and rehabbed.
  He moved from Round Lake Beach to Oak Lawn to be with Johnstone in November and the two plan on getting married in the spring and will soon move to Aurora in a ranch house with few steps.
  To talk with this guy, the lost limbs are making him stronger. He admits there are times he feels sorry for himself but he doesn’t let it eat at him.
  “I have my days,” he said. “But you know what? I came to the conclusion that this is not going to change so I need to make the most of what I’ve got. I’m determined to make the best of a bad situation.
  “I’ve worked hard to where I can walk again. Before all of this, if you would have asked me if someone with no legs can walk again, I would have thought ‘no.’ But when I learned I could, that was my goal.”
  He still doesn’t know how he contracted the disease but is thankful because around the same time he was going through his ordeal, some people contracted the disease at a hotel in Chicago and died.
  Although Johnstone couldn’t make it to the award ceremony, Carson gave her plenty of kudos for being there for him throughout all of this.
  By the way, the two are big Cubs fans. And Cheryl’s all-time favorite Cub?
  Ron Santo.

Here, Chick, Chick
  A new Chick-fil-A will open in Chicago Ridge this morning, Thursday, but the real show was Wednesday night.
  Every time a new place opens, hundreds of people camp out overnight in hopes of becoming one of the first 100 customers to receive a free weekly meal for a year.
  People come from all over the country to these things. This is fast food’s version of the Grateful Dead cult.

  In late October, 2010, a lot of folks braved the cold and windy elements in Orland Park for a chance at those free meals.
  The restaurant is located at 9600 Ridgeland Ave.

Retro Reporter feature coming soon
  Some of you readers may have been missing our look back at stories from 10, 25 and 50 years ago.
  I miss it, too.
  As the not-so-new editor, I wanted to make some improvements on that feature rather than just slapping it together, but I have been busy with learning and tinkering with other phases of the paper that I haven’t been able to get to it yet.
  That will change.
  The game plan is to put together a “Retro Reporter” feature which would highlight a story from those years, find a funny, poignant or newsworthy quote from those years and some fun facts culled from those papers in those years.
  I am hoping to get this going starting next week and I’m crossing my fingers we can put in in a consistent spot in the paper from week-to-week.

Hello Dolly winners
  Some new subscribers from Oak Lawn from a recent Reporter subscription drive were presented with tickets to the play “Hello Dolly.”