POSTED: 04:38 p.m. HST, Feb 11, 2013
For hero of the game Leo Klink, the euphoria of leading the Kalani Falcons soccer team to a state championship lasted only as long as it took to walk off the field in victory.
Klink, who scored two goals in regulation and another during the shootout to give Kalani a 3-2 victory over Punahou on Saturday, played the end of regulation plus two overtime periods and the shootout unaware that his mother, Hiroyo Klink, 52, had suffered a brain hemorrhage while watching the game and been rushed to a nearby hospital.
As soon as the game ended, coaches told Klink what had happened. Still in his mud-caked cleats, Klink was rushed to the hospital, where his mother had been placed in a medically induced coma.
"It was definitely heartbreaking," Klink said by telephone Sunday. "I went from tears of joy to tears of sadness."The evening had started well for Klink and his Kalani teammates. Twice Punahou scored go-ahead goals in regulation, and twice Klink responded to even the score.
With 25 minutes left, Klink's mother left her seat in the stands to go to the restroom. As she walked down the bleachers, she became dizzy.
Klink's father, Paul, noticed that she was dragging her left arm and leg. Using a tip from a stroke-awareness video he'd recently seen, he asked Hiroyo to smile.
"The left side of her face was unresponsive," Paul Klink said.
Against her protests, Klink called 911, and the game was stopped for 10 minutes so she could be placed in an ambulance.
She made it clear that she didn't want her son to know what had happened. She wanted him to keep playing.
Kalani head coach Mike Ching said he struggled with keeping the news from his star player. And when the two overtime periods expired with the score still knotted at 2-2, Ching even questioned the wisdom of turning to the Oahu Interscholastic Association's leading scorer and reigning boy soccer player of the year.
"I didn't know what to do," Ching said. "I am just a high school soccer coach. Even during penalty kicks, I didn't want him to take it because what if he misses and we lose and he has that piled onto him along with his mother? But nobody else wanted to take it; they all wanted Leo."
As usual, Leo came through, scoring goals along with teammates Ryan Bui and Steve Teshima. Goalie Kazuto Moribe sealed the victory, turning back a Punahou penalty kick.
"I celebrated with the team, shook the Punahou players' hands, then did an interview," Klink said. "Then the coaches came over and told me what happened."
TV commentators noted Klink's quick exit and mistook his tears for the emotional release of victory. Klink's teammates understood the magnitude of the tragedy immediately.
"They were bawling their eyes out when we told them," Ching said of Klink's soccer teammates. "Leo is probably the biggest sweetheart you'll ever meet on the field. He's a big mama's boy, in the best way. He's the most unassuming superstar I've ever met, and he loves his mother."
What appeared to be a stroke turned out to be a brain hemorrhage. In the hours after her arrival at the hospital, Hiroyo Klink's brain swelled to quadruple its normal size, putting her life in extreme jeopardy. Doctors hope for the best but fear she might not survive the next two or three days.
Leo Klink remained at his mother's side all day Sunday, telling her that he loves her, that she'll get better, that everything will be OK.
"She's the hardest worker I've every known," Leo said. "She gets up at 6 every morning to make me breakfast, then takes me to school and goes to work. Later she picks me up from soccer practice, goes home and makes dinner for us. She's always working for us."
The Klinks aren't alone in their vigil. Immediately after the game and throughout the night, scores of teammates from Kalani's soccer and football teams as well as Leo's Abunai club team came with their families to lend their support.
"The love and caring that have been expressed to us is just overwhelming," Paul Klink said. "It's nuts and it's beautiful. This has been the best and worst 24 hours of our lives."