"Witness to Evil,"
Aug. 5, 2004
The story: Pinellas Park electrician Kerim Mesanovic survived the brutal Omarska prison camp during the ethnic cataclysm of the early '90s that broke up Yugoslavia. Three times in 2003 and 2004, Mesanovic testified at The Hague against former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic and other alleged war criminals believed responsible for the deaths of thousands in the Balkan region.
What happened next: Resolution has been a scarce commodity both for Mesanovic and for those he testified against. Milosevic's inconstant trial is tottering toward its fourth year, with the ailing former leader in charge of his own defense. The first witness has yet to be called in the trial of the Omarska commander, Zeljko Mejakic, two years after his arrest. The International Criminal Tribunal has referred his case to Bosnia, and Mesanovic says he expects to return to testify despite concerns that he could be in physical jeopardy there.
Mesanovic still has not come to terms with the horror he experienced in his two months at Omarska. Outwardly living a good life surrounded by friends and family, he confesses that "deeper in my soul something is different. I never gonna forget what happened." He's still beset by nightmares about the blood and the beatings, but the normality of his waking life, Mesanovic says, is a "guarantee for my mental life."
He isn't concerned about the slow pace of justice. Milosevich is 64, and Mesanovic feels even 10 years in prison would leave the despot deep in the twilight of life. The future is brighter for Mesanovic. Next spring, he and his wife Nada will raise their hands, recite an oath and become U.S. citizens.
"Calling Dr. Vegas," March 30, 2005
The story: Vegas Brown, a USF med student, faced the excruciating Match Day process, which determined where he'd spend the next several years of his life. The graduating class gathered at Skipper's Smokehouse to find out where they would complete their residencies. Vegas, a Sarasota native, hoped to stay at USF. But the computer had other ideas. Vegas Brown was headed to ... Detroit.
What happened next: Vegas spent a week with his family, then went north to Sinai Grace Hospital in the Motor City. When I caught up with him by phone in early December, he was grocery shopping in between shifts at the hospital. The 80-hour weeks have been rough, he said, and the cold is brutal.
So far, Vegas hasn't spent much time in the emergency room (he wants to be an ER physician), but his turn in the rotation is coming up, and he's looking forward to seeing some action.
As for his new hometown, Vegas had few complaints, aside from all the Pistons fans. (He's a die-hard Heat man himself.) And he misses his family, the folks who were so proud of him last March. "I probably won't see them again until April," he said. "That's the biggest challenge for me. Not being in Florida isn't that tough."
"Hope, Organic Style," May 25, 2005
The story: In December 2004, Esther Morris was given five years to live. Doctors diagnosed the 72-year-old Atlantan with stage IV — the most severe — metastasized breast cancer and recommended chemotherapy. But having watched family and friends suffer and die during the stringent treatment, Esther refused. At the beginning of this year she chose to undergo Gerson therapy, a philosophy developed by German physician Max Gerson in the 1920s. The therapy pushes an organic, low-fat, low-sodium diet supplemented by minerals and coffee enemas. Gerson believed the regimen could repair damaged cells and detoxify the body, curing, among other diseases, cancer. Despite anecdotal testimonies praising the diet, prominent cancer facilities and organizations, including the American Cancer Society, have denounced the treatment. But Esther rebuked such notions and started the diet — consuming almost 20 pounds of organic food, swallowing more than 40 pills and performing four coffee enemas per day.
What happened next: In June, six months after starting the Gerson therapy, Esther underwent a petscan that revealed the cancer lumps in her lungs and neck area had multiplied and increased in activity. Despite the ominous news, Esther continued the diet. But two weeks ago, after another petscan in November revealed the same verdict, Esther decided to start a mild dose of chemotherapy — two four-hour sessions a week.
"I wanted to take a more rigorous approach," Esther says. "It couldn't hurt to at least try chemo for a bit."
She says the chemotherapy has made her tired and has caused her to slightly lose her voice. But her new doctor allows her, she says, to continue the Gerson diet. He has asked her, however, to add protein into her regimen. Gerson advocates claim cancer feeds off protein, but Esther says her doctor argues that protein helps the body repair and renew itself.