3.9.2012 How You Can Help Man Shot & Left Paralyzed

(March 9, 2012) - This is the story reported by Janet St. James at WFAA in the DFW area.

DALLAS - A blank stare hides the heavy weight of George Yovonie's thoughts.

"Now, do you feel me touching you down here at all?" said Dr. Chris Berry, touching Yovonie's legs. "Okay, nothing at all?"

Being paralyzed is just a fraction of this 30-year-old immigrant's tragic plight.

With just $20 in his pocket, he came to America eight years ago, from civil war-ravaged Sierra Leone in western Africa.

He drove an ice-cream truck in Dallas and was doing well, until October.

"Two guys tried to rob me," Yovonie said of being mugged the night before Halloween. "They shot me twice. In my belly. It's a real blessing to be alive."

The bullets severed his spinal cord.

After recovering from those wounds, Yovonie was sent home.

He was found there two weeks ago, in squalid conditions, dying.

"He was alone and he called to us from door when we knocked to come in," Dr. Berry said. "And the home was really quite dirty. It smelled a lot - kind of a combination of infection, urine and feces. And it was clear that George was not doing well, and was not able to take care of himself. He was shaking under a small blanket with chills. And a little bit confused."

Berry does housecalls for Baylor's Vulnerable Patient Network. He often comes across terrible circumstances.

This one was different.

"Something happened when I looked in George's eyes, and he was sick and shaking," Dr. Berry recalled. "And I connected with him. And I couldn't leave him. And I think it was... I think it was mercy."

Berry called 911. Yovonie has been in isolation at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas since then.

"He saved my life that day," Yovonie said.

As a legal immigrant without insurance, George doesn't qualify for medical care beyond an urgent hospital stay. He is a charity case at Baylor.

When he is discharged, Berry dreads what will happen when George is alone again.

"This kind of scenario will repeat itself," Berry said. "And he might not survive it the next time."

Baylor social workers are trying to find a rehab facility that will accept a charity case, and Berry is hoping others will also feel mercy and offer to help.

Despite being robbed, shot, and paralyzed, George Yovonie has hope that the better life he sought from the land of milk and honey is still coming.

"Oh yeah, I believe," Yovonie said with confidence. "I still believe in America."

Anyone interested in helping should contact: thegeorgefund@gmail.com or: Capernaum, PO Box 821536, Dallas, TX 75382.


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