On the Saturday of Easter weekend 2019, Robert King decided to take the scenic route home from work. “I remember the day so clearly. It was a beautiful, sunny evening and I hopped on Lake Shore Drive to take some time and enjoy my ride home,” noted Robert.
A 20-year automotive sales professional, Robert had finished a busy day selling cars and was looking forward to getting home. While driving near Soldier Field, Robert saw a green and white ambulance with lights flashing, quickly speed by him. He continued on Lake Shore Drive for a short time and again spotted the green and white ambulance, but this time it was smashed and had been “T-boned” in a major accident. While other traffic whizzed by, Robert pulled over to see if help was needed.
Three people were standing near the ambulance when he pulled up. Robert asked if everyone was alright and if they needed any help. One of the men standing on the side of the road asked if Robert could take them to the hospital. Without hesitation, Robert said, ‘no problem’ and told them to hop in his car.
One of the men started to load several coolers and boxes into Robert’s car. Then two people hopped into the car and said to Robert “‘Can you take us to Northwestern hospital? We don’t have time to wait for another ambulance,’” he recalled.
It was in that moment that Robert learned the emergency vehicle was actually an organ transplant van on its way to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for a surgery. In the coolers were a liver, a kidney and a pancreas that one of the men in the vehicle, Dr. Kofi Atiemo, an organ transplant surgeon, had just removed from a young, deceased donor.
Time was critical to get the organs to the hospital, as organs are only viable to be transplanted within a few hours. Kofi informed Robert that patients were already prepped for their transplant procedures back at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, waiting on the organs that were now in his car.
Robert said, “I thought they were loading their lunch or some equipment into my car. Once I heard about the transplants, I did not know whether to speed up or drive very carefully to the hospital.” Robert said his nerves kicked in and he focused on driving the organs very cautiously to their hospital destination.
“There were lots of people just driving by, but Robert was willing to stop,” says Kofi.
“I stopped that day because that is what I would hope people would do for me, my wife, my family,” said Robert. ‘It was simply a good deed for my fellow man. I was brought up to help people and to live by the golden rule.”
That day, Robert’s good deed unexpectedly helped to save more than one life. Quite an accomplishment, for a scenic drive home after a day in the office!
For the first time in 18 years, coronavirus caused the cancellation of the Red Cross Heroes Breakfast, but stories of resilience and determination prevail. These “Everyday Extraordinary Heroes” live among us. Watch their stories every Tuesday & Thursday starting April 14 at 10 a.m. in social media.
You can support the American Red Cross during this Coronavirus outbreak at Redcross.org/ChicagoHero.