Two years ago, doctors said Donna Jo Kling was dying and there was nothing more they could do for her. Today, she wears a crown.
Kling, 79, was recently crowned “queen” of Belleview Estates Rehabilitation and Care Center in Monticello and was named “Miss Personality” at a district pageant in Camden. The district pageant was a preliminary to the Arkansas Health Care Association’s annual state beauty pageant.
At the Belleview Estates pageant, three judges, including a University of Arkansas at Monticello professor, selected Kling after hearing her response to several questions: her favorite president was Bill Clinton; she was most inspired by her mother; and the “friendliness” at Belleview is what she likes most about living there.
A former church organist, Kling, at the age of 18, was awarded a scholarship to attend any music school she chose, but decided to marry and raise a family.
Twice divorced and twice widowed, she raised five children, working more than 30 years as head bookkeeper for General Motors car dealerships and winning national General Motors competitions for having flawless accounting books.
But life has not been all crowns, trophies, scholarships and bookkeeping awards for the silver-haired beauty queen with the girlish smile.
Losing her husband and two children within four years took its toll. In September 2011, two years after her husband, Jim Kling, died, Kling lay dying in a hospital.
“We were given no option but to let her die in hospice in Little Rock, or bring her home to care for her while she died,” said Kling’s daughter Dorris Hill, of Monticello.
Hill and her brother struggled with that, contemplating the odds and their choices.
“Since my brother had recently died a painful death in hospice we were not going to do that to my mother,” she said.
They decided to bring her home to Monticello and place her in a nursing home, if possible.
“On September 16, 2011, she barely survived the ambulance trip home to Monticello, and flat-lined a couple of times after she arrived,” Hill said.
At Drew Memorial Hospital, a local doctor “ran her levels” and discovered that Kling was being over-medicated with Dilatan, according to Hill.
“Her level should have been 12 and it was 36,” she said.
Going against the advice of the “big city” doctors and bringing Kling home saved her life.
Hill said she cannot say enough about the excellent care her mother has received at Drew Memorial Hospital, Belleview, and from Kling’s doctors and nurses. “They have been excellent to my mother,” she said.
Though Kling is wheelchair-bound and still quite ill and requires constant care, she beat the odds and remains relatively active, participating in nursing home activities and playing the piano for the other residents.