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Compassionate law students overrule judge and save his life

Seven University at Buffalo Law School students get high grades from State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr., their professor, not necessarily for legal knowledge but compassion.

Kloch was teaching the students in his trial technique class on an evening about two weeks ago at the Amherst Campus when his left knee started acting up from recent surgery to repair the damaged joint.

Unexpectedly, a wave of weakness overtook him and he sat at his desk, hoping to carry on with the class.

"I called the class to a halt because of the pain. It was overwhelming. I tried to get up and I couldn't move. The knee swelled easily to three times its size and got concrete hard," Kloch said.

Though he released the seven students in the class, they refused to leave his side. One of the students used a cell phone to call security, but security declined to send a patrol car over to drive the judge to his vehicle, Kloch said.

The judge had wanted to drive himself to the nearest emergency room.

"So these students picked me up and carried me outside, commandeered a shuttle bus to drive me to my car on the opposite side of campus," Kloch recalled during an interview from his bed at Kenmore Mercy Hospital.

"But the bus driver said, 'This man is in no shape to drive himself.' Then they summoned security and security called an ambulance and I was taken to DeGraff Memorial Hospital," Kloch, 58, said.

At the North Tonawanda facility, doctors sedated him and drained the knee, which was stricken with a fast-moving infection that included a massive clot which could have had catastrophic consequences had it shifted to another section of his body.

"I was delirious with pain and they were worried that I could have had an embolism," the judge said.

Later that night, he was discharged with orders to see his surgeon as soon as possible. The doctor prescribed bed rest and icing to keep the swelling down while the knee healed.

But it wasn't that simple.

After several more episodes of swelling and fierce pain, the judge said his wife, Ellie; his daughter, Sarah, a pharmacist; and his best friend, State Sen. George D. Maziarz, insisted that he go to the hospital.

That was last Sunday.

On Monday, he was again in surgery and yet another "huge clot," he said, was removed.

Now recovering, the judge is expected to begin physical therapy soon to learn how to walk again on his left leg.

He says he is certain that he has been given a second chance at life.

"I would have never had a chance if it wasn't for those seven law school students," said Kloch, overcome with emotion. "Lawyers are supposed to be compassionate, and these future lawyers were compassionate. They did the greatest job for me when they could have walked right out the door."

The students are Rebecca J. Wanat, Carrie L. Weremblewski, Tom Johnson, Michael Gortakowski, Jacob Goldman, Colin Lareaux and Kristen Farrell.

e-mail: lmichel@buffnews.com

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