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Family's prayer: another miracle for the patriarch

(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)

Jerry Gomez has seen miracles happen.

After two failed pregnancies in the first years of their marriage, Gomez and his wife, Carol, decided to try in-vitro fertilization. Their triplets turned 8 on Wednesday.

Then, in the summer of 1998, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The disease worsened year by year, and no one in his family or on a national registry of more than 8-million people matched for a bone marrow transplant. Last year he found a donor in Seattle.

With a transplant, he recovered.

But now, Gomez's family and friends are praying for another miracle.

Doctors at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center today will perform a brain biopsy on Gomez. They want to know if he has developed progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, a neuromuscular disease usually associated with AIDS and some forms of cancer.

If the biopsy confirms the worst, Gomez, 51, could have only a month left to live.

"I hope my daddy will live," said Gomez's daughter Julia, who was joined Wednesday night by about 100 friends and supporters at Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church for a prayer vigil for her father.

Carol Gomez said doctors hope that what's causing her husband's illness will be something less serious. There is no cure for progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy.

Jerry Gomez is a financial planner who lives in Bayshore Beautiful. He began having seizures around Christmas. Since then, he has suffered from strokes and has become paralyzed on the right side of his body. Lesions began to grow on his brain and he is unable to get out of bed or talk.

"Jerry and I have always believed in the power of prayer," Carol Gomez told well-wishers as they gathered outside the church to light candles. "I know that if Jerry could be here, he would thank every one of you from the bottom of his heart."

Carol Gomez said doctors aren't sure what time they will begin the biopsy. Jerry Gomez's blood platelet count is low. Doctors have to increase it before they operate.

Doctors have been giving him an aggressive therapy of drugs. Results from the biopsy should come back Monday.

Carol Gomez said she and her husband have spoken frankly about what faces them. "I had a little talk with him the other day and he understands that if God wants to heal him, he will. But if God wants him to walk with him, he's going to have to walk with him."

She told him she and their children, Julia, Max and Robert, will go on until they're reunited with him again someday.

"He has complete faith in God," she said.

Kevin Graham can be reached at (813) 226-3433 or kgraham@sppimes.com.

TO HELP

Jerry Gomez's family will post a time for his brain biopsy today on the Internet once they find out when it is scheduled. To learn when it will take place or read more about Gomez, log on to www.ladybugkatia.com/JerryGomez.html

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