Last year on the Saturday before Easter, Robert King, a 20-year automotive sales professional, decided to take the scenic route home from work. He had finished a busy day selling cars and was looking forward to getting home. “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,” Robert told the Chicago Red Cross.
While driving near Soldier Field, Robert saw a green and white ambulance with lights flashing speed by him. As he continued on Lake Shore Drive, he saw the ambulance again, 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 at 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. This is why the Red Cross has honored Robert with the Good Samaritan award, sponsored by KPMG. “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.”
Since COVID-19, Robert’s employment has been impacted. “I went from being given an award on March 6th for being in the top 12 sales with my company…to being one of the 3.3 million applying for unemployment,” he told the Red Cross. Robert is now focused on the important things in this life—family, friends, and staying healthy.
Robert was to receive his award at the Red Cross of Illinois’ annual Heroes Breakfast, which was cancelled because of coronavirus. We hope you are inspired by his story, and consider donating to the Red Cross at www.redcross.org/ChicagoHero. Right now, the impact of your gift will be doubled by a generous match.
Better is honored to be a sponsor of the Heroes Breakfast and to collaborate with the Red Cross to share the inspiring stories of all the 2020 Heroes too.