Beloved Custodian Gets Surprise Celebration at Virginia Elementary School After Double Transplant

Students lined the halls of Virginia’s Pole Green Elementary school on Feb. 25, holding signs and sporting wide smiles. The kids were ready and eager to welcome back their favorite custodian, who they call Mr. D.

Tyrees Dandridge, 59, has worked at the Hanover County school for 19 years, so his absence was certainly felt when he left in October to undergo a long-awaited heart and kidney transplant, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He was back home by December and returned to work last month with a warm welcome from some 600 students.

“They were hugging me, telling me they love me. I love them too. It was just wonderful,” Dandridge told Good Morning America. He added to the kids: “I’ve missed y’all — you know that, right?” according to the Times-Dispatch.

Video footage of the return showed Dandridge giving the children high fives and hugs as they smiled and some held up a large banner that read “Welcome Back.”

“Mr. D is an icon,” Pole Green principal Rhonda Voorhees told GMA. “He is serving his 19th year at our school and he is well-known and loved by our staff, students and community. He is a model of perseverance, which is a powerful lesson for all of us.”

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Dandridge’s health journey has been long and difficult, according to the Times-Dispatch. His health began to deteriorate over the past five or six years and he learned three years ago that his kidneys were failing. He began dialysis and soon discovered that his heart was weak — the organ was functioning at just 10 to 15 percent. He was subsequently put on the transplant list.

Then, last October, he got the call that there was a donor for him.

“I couldn’t breathe, I was just so happy. I couldn’t control it. I just said, ‘Y’all, just hold on, let’s take a breath,’ ” Dandridge told Inside Edition. The double transplant was successful and he was discharged from the hospital two weeks later.

“I couldn’t hardly walk or nothing, and now I got energy,” he told Inside Edition. “I’m like a whole new person.”

Now, Dandridge is happy to be in good health and back at his beloved elementary school.

“This is family — we’ve been a family for years,” he told the Times-Dispatch. “I just love them [and] I love them for loving me.”

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