Paralyzed in shooting, immigrant finds hope in kindness of others

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on June 15, 2012 at 6:20 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 19 at 4:59 PM

DALLAS - From his bed in an assisted living center, George Yovonie sorts through cards sent to him from new friends.

"They give me courage," he said.

An immigrant from Sierra Leone came to the land of milk and honey eight years ago with $20 in his pocket and became an ice cream truck driver.

It was a better life, until a bullet in a robbery attempt left him paralyzed in October. Baylor doctor Chris Berry found him in squalid living conditions in March, dying of an infection.

At the time, Yovonie admits, he wished it had killed him.

"I remember I was really depressed," he recalled. "Every day I thought I'm not going to see tomorrow."

Yovonie no longer thinks that way. Strangers, touched by his story, have kept him going.

"I could not imagine being paralyzed, a 30-year-old man and all alone, dependent on the community for support," said Kris Cook.

She now visits weekly.

Richard Graves coordinates efforts to make sure Yovonie, a legal immigrant with no insurance, makes it. He and a group of others supporting Yovonie wonder what will happen when he leaves the assisted living center, which is currently being paid for out of charity by Baylor Medical Center.

"The hope is to get him to an independent life where he has a job and a family and all that kind of stuff," Graves said.

They, and others, have been there for Yovonie on his 31st birthday, for small milestones in rehab and just for company on an otherwise boring day.

Yovonie, who came here to live the dream, said he believes more than ever in the goodness of Americans.

"This country is a good country," Yovonie said. "Just keep on believing. Just keep on believing."

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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