FARMINGTON — Steven Mendenhall says Tim Schulte saved his life on Monday.

That afternoon, just before dark, Mendenhall and his wife were driving home to Aztec on County Road 516. They had been grocery shopping in Farmington. Then a lightening wave of pain struck Mendenhall in the back.

Mendenhall can't remember all the details, but he remembers the unease and then that sudden pain, worse than anything he's ever felt, he said.

His wife pulled off the shoulder in front of the Oil and Gas Equipment Corp. Mendenhall said he felt an urge to get out of the truck and touch ground. So he unbuckled his seat belt, opened the door and — tears flooding his eyes — fell to the pavement.

Farmington resident Tim Schulte stands in front of one of his cars on Wednesday at Highway 64 Truck and Auto Sales in Bloomfield. On Monday, Schulte pulled
Farmington resident Tim Schulte stands in front of one of his cars on Wednesday at Highway 64 Truck and Auto Sales in Bloomfield. On Monday, Schulte pulled his car over and helped Steven Mendenhall after the man suffered a stroke. (Megan Farmer/ The Daily Times)

The 46-year-old said he thought he was dying.

Schulte, who drove by the scene, noticed the man on the ground and pulled over to help.

"He was writhing around on the floor in pain, and every time he moved he made it worse," Schulte said.

Schulte, a drag racer, knows basic first aid. So he knelt and placed his hand on Mendenhall's chest. He said the man's heart thudded, his pulse raced and his skin was wet. Schulte tried to calm him down.

"Relax and breathe. Relax and breathe," he said he told the man.

Schulte didn't know what would happen, he said. He only knew that if this man died, he wanted him to be comfortable, he said.

Schulte kept Mendenhall calm until an ambulance arrived and took the man to the hospital.

Mendenhall visited Schulte the next day and told the Good Samaritan that his heart would have burst had the man not calmed him down.

Later Monday night in the hospital, doctors injected Mendenhall with morphine and checked his heart and blood pressure. Both were good. They told him it could have been stress that triggered the attack. They said he had a stroke.

"It was something I can't explain to you," Mendenhall said on Wednesday, while standing in the parking lot across from the Super 8 in Bloomfield, where he was working on a construction job. "It was that scary."

A jackhammer droned over his voice, and two men guided a Jersey barrier suspended from a yellow front-end loader into Broadway Avenue. Cars and trucks zipped by the working men.

Two days after the stroke, Mendenhall was back at work. He also worked a half day on Tuesday.

"We have kids. We have bills," he said. "They don't get paid by sitting at home."

Mendenhall said at least 100 cars passed before Schulte stopped and helped him. He doesn't know why so many people drove by without stopping.

"There needs to be more people like that guy," he said.

Mendenhall added he is grateful for Schulte's help.

Schulte is also grateful. Mendenhall's stroke, he said, made him a better person. He learned he can act and help when people need it, he said.

"He ended up coming over here and talking to me and said I saved his life," Schulte said Wednesday from Highway 64 Truck and Auto Sales, where he stores his race cars. "I said, 'No I didn't. I just made a friend.'"

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and dschwartz@daily-times.com. Follow him @dtdschwartz on Twitter.