- Associated Press - Monday, May 9, 2016

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) - A steady stream of cards and well wishes from students gave Kilonda Guyogo the strength to recover from a brain aneurysm. Now, miraculously, back at work as Rickard Elementary School in Williston custodian after months of convalescence, finds himself reflecting on how lucky he is to be alive, the Williston Herald (https://bit.ly/1X76MCj ) reported.

When the Democratic Republic of Congo was rife with war, Guyogo fled his home country to seek asylum from the political instability. He was found by the UNHCR, a UN refugee agency that helped him start a life over in the U.S.

When he heard of opportunity in Williston, he ventured here to see if he could trade the cards he had been dealt. Even amid the slowdown, he found employment at Rickard Elementary, where the students greet him with high-fives and refer to him as ‘Mr. K.”

So when Guyogo didn’t make it into work one day last December, and unable to reach him by phone, concerned teachers and fellow custodians were finally able to get a hold of his roommate, who reported that Guyogo had suffered a brain aneurysm and had been flown to St. Alexius hospital in Bismarck.

Guyogo doesn’t recall much of that morning except that he felt lethargic before passing out. When he awoke, doctors told him he was ‘lucky to be alive.’ According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, 40 percent of the cases are fatal, and of those who recover 66 percent suffer from continuing neurological deficit.

Guyogo was transferred to North Carolina, where his sister had ended up, so he could be near family while he recovered. Months of physical therapy was needed so he could learn to walk again. Not one to ask for help, he said at times it was difficult to receive aid even to re-learn to walk.

While he pushed to overcome his medical situation, he said he found strength when he began receiving handwritten letters and cards of support from the students of Rickard Elementary. Thirteen times the secretary sent out bulk mailings to reach Guyogo.

“I was very happy to see them,” he said. “When I read the letters, they made me strong.”

He checked in every week with the district office to report on his progress and promised to return as soon as he was cleared by the doctors. Now months out of work, the staff and students decided they would begin fundraising to help him get back on his feet and into his own apartment.

Guyogo was taken aback by the care and consideration the school had for him but mostly looked forward to putting in another hard day’s work.

“God is love,” Guyogo said. “I have peace, now I just need to get married and then I will have it all.”


Information from: Williston Herald, https://www.willistonherald.com

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