NEW BRIGHTON, Minn. - A New Brighton man owes his life to an off-duty Minnesota State Patrol dispatcher who stepped in to help a stranger.
The dispatcher saw an elderly man in light clothing walking along a busy road in sub-zero temperatures last month.
"I was driving down the road and it was 12 below zero out," recalled Nicholas Carlson, a Radio Communications Operator for the State Patrol. "I noticed an elderly male that was walking on the side of the road with a walker. It did not look like he had a jacket on."
Retired minister Clare Karsten, 88, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, had walked away from the Brightondale Senior Assisted Living Center. Karsten was making his way on Rice Creek Road toward Silver Lake Road after 11 p.m. Carlson did a U-turn and stopped by Karsten.
"He was like 'Well, I was with a bunch of guys and they just left me here.' I said, 'Well, pretty cold outside. Maybe you should get in my vehicle and we will figure out where you live.'" Carlson was wearing his State Patrol jacket and told Karsten that he worked for the patrol, which seemed to relax Carsten.
The 88-year-old was wearing socks with no shoes, a light sweater and light slacks.
"Got him loaded up in my vehicle," said Carlson. "We drove over to the Super America and called dispatch here (at State Patrol Headquarters). Since I am new to the area, I was not exactly sure what county, what city I was in."
Emergency personnel arrived and transported Karsten to a hospital. Paul Karsten, Clare's son, was awakened.
"On that Monday night, we received a call from a paramedic at midnight that they had my father and when they described the incident. I learned that he had walked out of the facility he was living at," said Paul Karsten.
As for Nicholas Carlson, Paul Karsten gushed praise. "I cannot tell you enough how good it felt to know that somebody made that effort, particularly in the middle of the night when you do not know who you are coming up on or you do not know what the circumstances are. To risk yourself like that and to take the time out of your own day and your own schedule, I sometimes think we live in a pretty selfish society these days, but I find that people like him remind me that there are good people out there."
Karsten said his father is "absolutely fine" physically, thanks to Carlson.
"Mentally, every time an incident happens, for someone in his condition, there is a little bit of a drop. So, he is struggling a little bit more with memory and some other things."
An official of the management company of Brightondale Center explained that Karsten was not in an Alzheimer's area of their services at the time of the incident. He was a resident in standard care assisted living. Clare Karsten is now living in a more secure facility and safe.
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