November 7, 2009
BY CAROL MARIN Sun-Times Columnist
Carlos Hernandez Gomez is a reporter with attitude. Streetwise and smart, punky yet sweet. When Carlos walks into a news conference, he brings his own electricity.
Thick black glasses, trimmed black beard, and fedora whenever possible -- these are the accessories of a young man whose questions to politicians and prosecutors will not be ignored.
Carlos began his political reporting career at WBEZ radio in Chicago, but in 2005, CLTV hired him away to cover the corruption trial of former Gov. George Ryan.
But you won't be seeing him on TV for a little while. Carlos, 36, is off the air working on the most challenging story yet to cross his path. It's the ongoing medical effort to save his life. Diagnosed and operated on for colon cancer on New Year's Eve of 2008, he has recently had another surgery to scrub the lining of his stomach of malignant cells. His stomach was then pumped with boiling hot chemotherapy to nuke whatever microscopic bits of cancer remained.
"His doctors compare it to getting third-degree burns to your stomach," said Carlos' wife, Randi Belisomo, who also is a reporter for CLTV.
As I write this, Congress is preparing to go into session to take the first vote on President Obama's health-care reform package.
Meanwhile, Carlos is in a hospital bed in the oncology wing of Northwestern Memorial Hospital with Randi at his side.
When I visited Friday, two amazing nurses named Jon and Linda worked for almost an hour fixing IVs, drawing blood and giving him injections, all the while keeping a close watch on his heart rate.
Carlos, in pain so great that he couldn't smile, is lucky nonetheless.
He still has a job in an America where unemployment last week hit double digits and is expected to get worse.
He still has health insurance in a country where even the employed often don't, and where the unemployed stay awake at night fearing the onset of illness will bankrupt them before it kills them.
And Carlos is lucky because he has a solid-gold wife and friends who love him. And a medical team that offers first-rate care.
In his campaign for the presidency, Barack Obama promised change we can believe in. And devotion to the values and economic dreams of the shrinking, struggling middle class. He promised to take the partisanship out of Washington and restore a collaborative sense of purpose across party lines.
To date, those are still only promises.
Meanwhile, there is a basic divide between Congress and ordinary Americans. As Politico reported on Friday, 44 percent of the members of Congress are millionaires, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. But only 1 percent of Americans can claim that good fortune.
Obama needs a boldness he hasn't shown, and Democratic majorities in the House and Senate need a backbone they can't always find.
Bipartisanship is a laudable goal, but that may have to wait in line behind the 35 million Americans praying for health insurance.
When Carlos beats this thing and gets back on his feet, he may have some lessons to share about how to muster bipartisan support.
Since word of his illness was first posted on Rich Miller's CapitolFaxBlog, get-well wishes have poured in from political enemies Rod Blagojevich and Judy Barr Topinka. Republican gubernatorial candidate Andy McKenna offered prayers. Democratic Cook County Assessor Jim Houlihan arrived with jokes. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald quietly popped in, and former U.S. Sen. Adlai Stevenson took Carlos out for a good-luck dinner before the last surgery.
Carlos has people from both sides of the aisle in his corner.
Americans without health care should be so lucky.