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A Dam in the Stream

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Leal more than kept her word. Following the original presentation, aired November 25, she contacted Tony Lopez, a reporter/anchor at Channel 4, which has a loose partnership with Univision; shortly thereafter, Lopez shared Oscar's circumstances with his station's viewers. Leal also reached out to Dan Spicer, an attorney known for doing pro bono work for members of the area's Latino community. (The Post identified him as a Univision producer, but he's not on staff. Instead, he's an independent who frequently contributes public-service announcements and news stories.) After agreeing to come aboard, Spicer asked attorney Ed Naylor, of Moyes, Giles, O'Keefe, Vermeire and Gorrell, to aid him by writing a trust agreement, thus ensuring that any past and future donations were handled in a responsible way. Naylor passed matters on to a colleague, Guadalupe Sisneros, who later became the Hernandezes' lawyer before passing the reins to Ralph Torres, their current attorney.

Sisneros brought in another player: Liz Giordano, who heads Garden of Hope, a nonprofit service that she says is devoted to "assisting individuals in need of lifesaving medical treatment." Because Oscar fit this bill, Giordano and her colleagues threw themselves into the chore of finding a hospital that would lend a hand without regard to cost. According to Leal, Children's Hospital of Denver wasn't even in the picture at that point. "They were not very helpful, either for interviews or for anything else," she notes. "They just said, 'You have to have the money, and if you don't have the money, we can't do anything.'" Contacted for last week's column, Children's Hospital spokeswoman Rachel Robinson referred all questions about Oscar to the Hernandez family. Torres, their attorney, has failed to return a bushel of phone calls from Westword.

On December 11, one day after the Post checked in with the first of its stories on the Hernandezes, most of the principals -- with the exception of Giordano, who was in Washington, D.C., working contacts on Oscar's behalf -- met at Univision to discuss the trust. At the time, Spicer and Leal were tabbed to serve as trustees, with Giordano named an alternate. But Leal eventually had to take herself out of the running for this post.

"I got too personal on the story, and I had to back up," Leal concedes. "As a reporter, you're not supposed to get too personal, and when I talked to my general manager about it, she told me not to get involved, because you never know how things are going to turn out. It wasn't just my name involved, but the whole station. And I didn't want to hurt the station if anything happened."

A few days later, Giordano was out, too, despite lining up a free-transplant deal with the Oakland hospital that was spelled out plainly in several e-mails to Children's in Denver. (This proposal was first publicized on Univision on December 19, a full six days before it appeared in the Post -- a fact that makes the boast in the January 31 article about the offer having been "leaked to the Denver Post" seem considerably less impressive.) Still, Giordano prefers to look ahead rather than back. "Our organization has identified several other individuals in need of bone-marrow transplants," she says, adding her hope that some or all of them will be able to take advantage of the same free treatment in Oakland that the Hernandezes ultimately turned down.

As for Spicer, he found out he wouldn't be a trustee after returning from a brief Christmas vacation. He continued to do what he could to help, offering to fly a family member to Oakland for a tour of the hospital and even lining up a promised job for Oscar's father, Pedro Hernandez, an unemployed carpenter. In the end, neither of these gifts was accepted.

"It's truly a shame that the facts were distorted time and time again," Spicer says about the events as a whole. "This was a purely humanitarian effort by the people in this city and the people closest to this case, including Nancy Leal and Liz Giordano. What they did was unique and miraculous -- so to have this distorted in the many ways it's been is most unfortunate for everyone, including all Mexican-Americans living in Colorado."

And Leal? Although she hasn't been in touch with the Hernandezes for well over a month, she's pleased that Oscar is set to receive a transplant. But she feels unsettled by much of went on. "Think about the people who gave jewelry, who gave fur coats, to help pay for something another hospital was offering to do for free," she says. "I ask myself, 'How did that happen?' And I think anybody would be asking the same things I am."

Challenger redux: The explosion of the space shuttle Columbia on Saturday, February 1, prompted the sort of unremitting TV coverage to which members of this catastrophe-obsessed age have sadly grown accustomed -- the possible exception to this group being CBS anchor Dan Rather, who spent countless hours seemingly on the brink of cracking once and for all. It also provided cable-news junkies a temporary respite from "Target: Iraq" drumbeating, which has already gone on for months more than even war-happy network executives might have predicted.

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