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Thon Thon Mathiang

Thon Thon Mathiang is a refugee from Sudan. He immigrated to the City of Buffalo on July 5th 2005 to escape the civil war engulfing his country where his mother was killed. He explained to me his travels from Sudan in order to survive and his arrival in Egypt where he applied to the UN as a refugee as he put it; “for resettlement to the great country of United States of America so my life will change from worse to excellent.”
Thon Thon strives for one thing, “I want to reach the top of my education”. He is currently a student at E.O.C. taking advance classes and placement tests to get into E.C.C. and complete his dream to be an artist. “God gave me a great talent drawing, and I will study to make it a career.”
The road for Thon Thon pursuing his dream and career has been difficult at best. He left his country mourning his mother and arrived in America with the same dream bestowed upon all of us. After three months living here tragedy struck him again. On December 7th 2005 Thon Thon was riding his bicycle, his only mode of travel, in the dark to his English tutor when he was struck by an automobile at the intersection of Genesee Street and Kehr. The police report does not provide much information to clarify the circumstances of the crash. It simply states that the bicyclist was traveling East on Genesee Street and crossed in front of the vehicle that was traveling West. Thon Thon has no memory of the crash.
Fleeing tyranny Thon Thon came to America uneducated, jobless and unable to speak English and has become a victim of circumstance. In pursuit of an education he was in a crash that has irreparably harmed him. While riding a bicycle at night, without a helmet or lights is not advised, is it his fault for not doing so? How could he have known the rules of the road, or known of the importance of wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle in our country? Could he have even afforded these things? When we do not even do a good job teaching our own children these lessons of the road should we expect a refugee to know them?
After being in a coma for two weeks, Thon Thon has nothing but praise for the people at ECMC who took care of him, especially Dr. Bennett. However, the scar that wraps around his head is the reminder of his head trauma and symbol of his struggle to remember things, including the 11 pills a day he must take since the crash.
Thon Thon is still striving to make himself “excellent”. The recurring bad dream of his crash won’t let go though. It appears that a $65,000 lien has been placed upon him by Erie County’s Department of Social Services for the medical services provided to him to date as a result of the crash. The insurance company of the driver who hit him is looking to settle for about half of the lien, and then there is still the lawyer to pay. When all is said and done the driver got off because she did not see him, the insurance company doesn’t have to pay for all the expenses because Thon was not wearing a helmet and had no lights, the taxpayers must cover the brunt of the fiscal expense and Thon still blesses this country for the opportunity it offers in spite of his cry for help.
All of this and nothing changes. I don’t know how to help Thon Thon but I thought if I could share his story maybe someone else will.

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