By Joline Gutierrez Krueger/Journal Reporter
In moments of adversity, we search for a sliver of good, a tiny shining bit of kindness to reminds us that all is never lost, even in the worst of times, because that which is human and humane in us survives.
A hurricane rips through the East Coast, leaving millions in the dark, and we rejoice in the generosity of neighbors who share their restored electricity by snaking extension cords out their front doors so those without power can recharge their cellphones or perk a pot of coffee.
A fire rages through a home, and we honor the stranger who breaks through a window to rescue an elderly woman trapped inside.
Halloween comes, and we love the child with brain cancer who organizes a drive to collect costumes so his fellow young patients can celebrate in style while hospitalized.
Breakdowns, as the old saw goes, can create breakthroughs. Things fall apart so things can fall together.
And so it was for Richard “Dutch” Kline, an 84-year-old Albuquerque man who is alive today because of that shining bit of kindness shown to him by strangers.
Kline is still recuperating and doesn’t recall all the details, so we’ll let daughter Melody Winter tell the story as she understands it.
Kline was an entrepreneur back in the day, the owner of a motor coach company and a big, tough former Navy man who hasn’t always made it easy on his family with his independent ways, even as he grows older. These days, a cousin serves as his caretaker.
“He does all kinds of things; he’s really intelligent,” said Winter from her home in Green Valley, Ariz. “He’s a good dude.”
Kline had gone shopping Oct. 26, a Friday, at a flea market in Bosque Farms. His caretaker was on a weekend trip to Florida, so he had gone alone.
He had just put his purchases and $150 in cash in his car when he suffered a massive heart attack and collapsed in the parking lot.
Kline recalls only that someone started chest compressions and forced him to breathe.
“He remembers somebody beating on his chest and kept doing that until the ambulance came,” Winter said. “Whoever that was and whoever called 911 saved his life.”
Kline was rushed to the Heart Hospital of New Mexico at Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque, where he was taken into surgery to have three stents placed in his narrowed coronary arteries.
“Those doctors and nurses took such great care of him,” Winter said. “They, too, saved our father’s life.”
But for those next few days, the family hadn’t even known what had happened to Kline. By the time he had reached the hospital, his cellphone and wallet were gone.
“Our cousin got home from Florida that Monday, and that’s when the hospital finally traced him to her and called her,” Winter said.
Kline went home Oct. 30 and is recovering nicely, she said. He is alive thanks to the efforts and skills of the Heart Hospital medical team, the paramedics and his serendipitous decision to go to the flea market.
“His doctor said that if he had not gone out, he would have been home alone when he had his heart attack, and he probably would have died,” Winter said. “Needless to say, we’re making sure he is never left alone again.”
They are grateful — and, frankly, a little amazed — that although Kline’s car was left at the flea market unlocked for days, no one stole his purchases or the cash inside.
But the person they owe the most gratitude to, the one who stopped in the parking lot that day as Kline lay dying, is the one they don’t know.
“We have nothing to go on, no records, nothing,” Winter said. “My father doesn’t remember if it was a man or woman, if there was more than one person.”
They would love to hear from this good Samaritan. Contact me if you know, and I’ll help put you in touch.
“Anybody could have just walked by and not done anything,” she said. “But this person, or persons, stepped up and saved our father. We’re very humbled by everyone’s act of kindness and will be forever grateful. There are no words or deeds that would express our gratitude but would like to try.”
Because of this mystery benefactor, Winter said she and other family members have been inspired to take courses on life-saving measures, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and they suggest others consider doing the same.
Perhaps, someday, they say, they can return the courtesy, provide that shining bit of kindness, to someone in need.