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.”


Accountant not accountable?

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Desmond to fight $4,100 fine from State Board of Elections

  An Oak Lawn trustee faces a $4,100 fine for failing to file the required paperwork with the Illinois State Board of Elections before running for office.
  The board on Sept. 16 found that Trustee Tim Desmond violated campaign disclosure laws by failing to file a statement of organization on time.
  Desmond was fined $50 for each day the statement was delinquent, a board of elections official said. He also was fined $325 for failing to file quarterly campaign disclosure reports on time, board of election officials said.
  Desmond said he plan to appeal the penalty by the Oct. 12 deadline and blamed an accountant error for the paperwork snafu.
  He said Tuesday that he was not aware of the fine. “It was the first I heard of it,” he said.
  A statement of organization must be filed within 10 days of the creation of a campaign committee or within two days if the committee is created within 30 days of an election.
  The complaint was filed in July by former Trustee Cindy Trautsch, who Desmond defeated in the April election.
  “Desmond mailed multiple literature pieces which stated that (they) were paid for by the Friends of Tim Desmond committee. However, there was no such committee created with the board of election,” Trautsch said in a statement.
  “State laws require him to create a committee and then report his expenditures and contributions in the first quarter by April 15, 2013. Desmond not only did not disclose his expenditures for the first three months of the year, he didn’t even bother to create the committee which his literature claimed was in existence,” Trautsch said.
  Desmond did not file a statement of organization until July 12, according to forms on file with the board of elections. He filed campaign disclosure statements for March 13 through 31 and April 1 through June 30 on Aug. 1, records show.
  Political committees are required to disclose their financial activity on a quarterly basis. The reports are due by the 15th of the month following the end of the quarter.
  Desmond blamed his accountant for failing to submit the paperwork on time.
  “The accountant I used didn’t do what he was supposed to do,” Desmond said. “I expect an accountant to do his job.”
  He said he filed the required forms shortly after receiving the complaint from the board of elections.
  Desmond added that he does not understand Trautsch’s motivation for filing the complaint.
  “I’m not sure what she’s trying to gain by all this,” he said.
  He said the voters will decide if the error reflects poorly on his performance as a trustee.
  A statement of organization requests information concerning the structure and purpose of a political committee, including the date the committee was created; the amount of funds available for campaign expenditures; information on the candidate supported by the committee, names of the committee’s chairman and treasurer and the financial institution where funds will be deposited, according to Illinois election code.
  Desmond is the owner of Jack Desmond’s Irish Pub in Chicago Ridge. He was member of Mayor Sandra Bury’s slate that was swept into office.
  Trautsch was appointed in October 2011 to replace Jerry Hurckes, who resigned in earlier that year. She opposed Desmond as a member of former Mayor Dave Heilmann’s slate.

Bella the ball: Party to help EP fourth grader buy new service dog

  • Written by Bob Rakow


  There’s a party in Evergreen Park on Sunday FRONT-COLOR-1-col-BELLAAn Evergreen Park family is hoping to raise money so their son can work with Bella, a service dog. Submitted photo.and if it’s a success, Liam McNamara will soon have his service dog.

  McNamara, 9, a 4th grader at Southwest School and Evergreen Park resident, has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, along with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, bipolar personality and anxiety.
  He had a service dog, Bub, but the golden retriever died two years ago, causing his family to raise the funds needed to purchase another one.
  The new dog, Bella, a one-year-old German Shepard, will cost the family about $20,000, and insurance does not cover the expense.
  Bella is being provided through Dog Wish, a California-based organization that trains service dogs to assist people with disabilities.
  “The dog is being trained right now,” said Liam’s mother, Dawn.
  The fundraising event, Liam’s Paws for a Cause, will be held from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Circle Park, 97th Street and Homan Avenue.
  The event will cost $50 for families or $15 for an individual and will include games, a disc jockey, band, raffles, silent auction, bean bag tournament, three bouncy houses and food.
  “It’s a fun day in the park,” McNamara said.
  The McNamara’s raised a $500 down payment for the dog in June after holding a garage sale at the First United Methodist Church in Evergreen Park.
  The dog’s $20,000 price day may seem high, but it covers the cost of extensive training as well transportation from California, McNamara said.
  A service dog is critical to Liam’s well-being, his mother said.
  Bella would not allow Liam to leave the house without permission or nudge the boy to remind him to look both ways before crossing the street.
  The dog also is trained to relieve Liam’s anxiety by cuddling with him. Liam often gets anxious when he meets new people. He cannot articulate his feelings or express his emotions. As a result, he can become violent, scream or hit people, McNamara said.
  The dog also is trained to track in case Liam ever disappears. Additionally, she’s trained to respond to cues. For example, she will stand in between Liam and a new person, prevent the boy from entering a car with a stranger or leave the house alone, McNamara said.
  For information or to make a donation, visit


West Nile nightmare

  • Written by Bob Rakow


 ‘I called myself a bag of water’ EP mayor Sexton says as he publicly opens up 14 months after his near-fatal ordeal

 Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton considers himself a blessed man.

  The veteran mayor contractedpage-1-COLOR-4-col-sextonEvergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton was relaxed when he opened up and discussed his fight with the West Nile virus before being honored Friday at a ceremony at Christ Medical Center. Photo by Jeff Vorva West Nile virus more than a year ago and endured months of grueling rehabilitation sessions to regain his strength.
  But Sexton refuses to call himself a victim. Rather, he believes the illness and subsequent rehab were blessings that gave him a new outlook on life.
  “I’m most fortunate to have this happen,” Sexton said Friday during a luncheon before an awards ceremony at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.
  Sexton and four others were honored for never giving up during their battles to overcome various illnesses during the hospital’s 25th annual Rehabilitation Awards Ceremony.
  In the past 14 months, Sexton has been reluctant to talk publicly about his ordeal. He tested positive for the virus July 30, 2012. In mid-August, 2012, the information became public and was a major story in the Chicago area because the news broke just days after the death of Lombard Village President William Mueller. Mueller reportedly died of complications caused by the West Nile virus but had also been battling bone marrow cancer.
  When Sexton missed his first board meeting in early August, an official told audience members that he had a virus but specifically ruled out West Nile. Jerome Bosch, a trustee at the time, said that it was the first meeting Sexton missed in 11 years.
  On Friday, Sexton was relaxed, joked around with friends and family and said “life is better” as a result of his lengthy rehabilitation. “It’s all a positive. You realize how lucky you truly are. People have it tougher than this,” he said.
  Sexton underwent extensive rehabilitation sessions at both Christ Hospital and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, working with occupational, speech and physical therapists, who pushed him to overcome the aftereffects of West Nile virus.
  He returned to work in October and attended his first board meeting since contracting the virus Oct. 15.
  Sexton, 61, prefers to focus on the positives that came as a result of the intense rehab.
  “It turned out to be a wonderful experience,” he said, adding that he bonded with therapists and other patients and grew closer to his family.
  Sexton was joined at Friday’s luncheon by several family members, including his wife, Karen. The mood was festive, vastly different emotions than the ones experienced in the days after Sexton was hospitalized.
  Sexton’s brother, John, said the mayor’s condition was initially touch-and-go and family members were extremely concerned. But the mayor’s physicians put the family at ease, explaining that he would rebound after the first few days.
  “I was really worried early on,” John Sexton said. “He was comatose.”
  Jim Sexton recalled feeling sluggish and thought he had the flu or was dehydrated. But when he checked into the emergency room, he was sweating profusely and had a 105-degree temperature, he said.
  But Sexton rallied and soon was handing some village business while in the hospital—taking phone calls and meeting with village staff.
  John Sexton often drove his brother to rehab sessions and said the mayor never complained or expressed doubt about recuperating.
  “He bought into it and was very, very committed,” John Sexton said. “He really had a great attitude through the whole process.”
  But Sexton said the early days of therapy were tough. He could not get out bed, shower or dress himself without assistance.
  “I called myself a bag of water,” he said.
  But the rehab team believed it was time to take Sexton on the road to recovery.

  “They know how to push your buttons,” Sexton said of the therapists, many who attended Friday’s awards ceremony.
  Fourteen months later, Sexton continues therapy sessions two days a week primarily to regain the strength is his neck—the only remaining aftereffect of the disease.
  Sexton said he attended the luncheon to thank therapists, physicians and nurses who cared for him.
  “I think all of the awards should go to the people at Christ Hospital,” he said. “I had a little roll of bad luck.”


Community Briefs

Oak Lawn

Children’s Museum celebrates Literacy Month

  The Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn is celebrating National Literacy Month. Simply show your library card at the admission’s desk and you will get $1 off your admission price throughout the month of September.
  “Reading and writing is the foundation of today’s learning,” said Adam Woodworth, the museum’s Executive Director. “Yes, you can turn on the Discovery Channel and the History Channel and get a lot of good, useful information. But, what if you want to learn more about something that you’ve seen? You are probably going to go to the library or look it up on the internet. That’s where reading comes in and where fluency and comprehension in reading becomes that much more important.”
  “Some kids are good at science, some kids are good at math, but without being able to read,” added Woodworth, “Those subjects become that much more difficult.”
  While you are at the museum, you might find a way to celebrate National Literacy Month with your child. For instance, you might:
  • Participate in our 11 a.m. story time experience from Tuesdays through Friday.
  • Find a book in one of the exhibits and read with your child.
  • Make a story with your child about your visit to the museum.
  • Find words throughout the museum and have your child read them to you.

Artsy Good program highlighted

  Also at the Cnhildren’s Center over the summer, several young artists participated in the Artsy Good program at the museum and they will be showing off their work at our first late night of the year at 6 p.m. Friday.
  To celebrate the first late night of the year, admission is just $5 per person between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Starting in Oct., the museum will be open until 8 p.m. on the second and fourth Friday of each month.

Little Company of Mary seeks volunteers

  Little Company of Mary is looking for energetic and friendly individuals to donate their time to greet and guide patients at their newest state-of-the-art medical facility in Oak Lawn. The Outpatient Center is a 51,000-sqaure-feet, the three-story-state-of-the-art medical center is located 6700 West 95th St.
  Volunteers enhance the effectiveness of the many departments which serve patients, visitors and employees. Volunteers play an intricate role that helps make the hospital function.
  If you would like to become a volunteer at Little Company of Mary, we ask for a minimum commitment of four hours a week for one year.
  For more information about volunteer opportunities, please call Volunteer Resources at 708-229-5280.

Salem UCC to serve at PADS site

  SALEM UCC, 9717 S. Kostner Avenue, Oak Lawn, will once again be a PADS site this fall and winter for women and children. This will be our third year that Salem has run the site. Every Sunday evening October through April, homeless woman and children are able to come to the church for a hot meal and a place to stay for the night.
  The site is run by volunteers and is in need of several volunteers again this year. There will be an information meeting at 7 p.m. at the church. Call Gerry Krakowsky at 708-259-3566 for more information.

Evergreen Park

Documents Disposal coming to EPCHS

  State Rep. Kelly Burke, D-Evergreen Park, is inviting constituents to take advantage of free and secure document disposal at her community shred day this month.
  Burke’s shred day will be held from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Sept. 28 in the parking lot of the Evergreen Park Community High School, 9901 S. Kedzie Ave. in Evergreen Park. Residents are invited to bring old tax returns, pay stubs, bills, receipts and credit card applications for safe destruction. Documents will be shredded on site.
  “Shredding is not only the safest way to dispose of old bills, credit card statements and other documents that contain sensitive information, it’s also an environmentally friendly way of clearing clutter that’s taking up space in a home or business,” Burke said. “This shred day is a great opportunity to make our identities safer and our communities greener.”

  For more information about Burke’s shred day, please call her constituent service office at 708-425-0571 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .