From an early age, Jessica Guilló suffered from frequent epilepsy attacks, which affected her development and learning abilities. Because of this, her mother Yolanda stopped working so she could dedicate herself to taking care of her.
Seven months ago, Yolanda died after battling lung cancer and dealing with a fall that dislocated her hip. Jessica Guilló’s life and and that of her father then changed drastically.
“We miss her so much,” said Guilló’s father, Herbert.
Guilló, 26, has speech problems and acknowledged with a nod that she is shy when meeting people. But her late mother, whom Herbert described as the most dedicated of mothers, left her husband and daughter prepared for her absence.
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Months before her death, Yolanda taught her husband how to cook the Guatemalan dishes she always prepared for the family. Now that she’s gone, Herbert cooks those meals for his daughter.
“She would sit by the table and tell me which ingredients to use when cooking,” Herbert recalled. “She’d say, ‘put this’ or ‘add that,’ and that’s how I learned how to make hilacha and pulique.”
The couple’s dream was to remodel the modest kitchen at their home, which is near Kendall. They wanted to buy a new refrigerator with two doors; the old white refrigerator they now have doesn’t work properly. The cabinets in the small kitchen are worn and discolored, and the air duct is exposed.
“My wife and I had planned to fix up the kitchen and renovate it, but when she became ill, we decided we couldn’t afford those types of expenses,” said Herbert, who retired from his job as a mechanic two years ago to take care of his sick wife and daughter.
Herbert’s love, dedication and willingness to make sacrifices for his family motivated Monica Gomez, of the Unike Support Services organization, to nominate the Guillós for the Miami Herald’s annual Wish Book campaign.
“Despite the adversity she has faced, Jessica is a loving and happy person,” said Gomez, whose agency assists people with disabilities. “Her father does the best he can. He takes good care of her and keeps the house clean, but it’s clear that they need a new refrigerator.”
Jessica, who graduated from Southwest Senior High School, attends a special educational program at the WOW Center. She practices sports at the center and has participated in the Special Olympics. She also participates in talent shows and in programs related to art. Drawing is her favorite pastime.
She has drawn everything from cartoons to Egyptian goddesses and is inspired by the bright colors found on traditional clothing of the indigenous population of her parents’ homeland.
Jessica’s eyes light up when she talks about Guatemala, a country she has never visited but that is close to her heart because of the stories her father has shared.
“I want to go to Guatemala and see the quetzal!” Jessica Guilló said excitedly.
“It’s very hard to see it, daughter,” responded her father, referring to the national bird, as he embraced her.
“You have to go to the mountain to see it,” Guilló explained to a visitor. “My papi saw a quetzal in the mountain.”
Not all the stories Guilló remembers are happy ones. The night her mother fell in the shower and broke her hip, Jessica ran out to the street to ask the neighbors for help.
“She was on the floor, and I helped my father hold her up,” she said.
Despite the difficulties the Guillós have faced over the past two years, Jessica Guilló has a positive attitude and loves to recount stories that make her smile. Her father said he is impressed by her development and growing interest in helping others.
“I’m very proud of her,” he said.
How to help
Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year.
▪ To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook.
▪ To give via mobile phone, text WISH to 41444.
▪ For information, call 305-376-2906 or email wishbook@MiamiHerald.com.
▪ Most requested items: Laptops and tablets for school, furniture, accessible vans.
Read more at Miami Herald.com/wishbook.