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Freeway patrol driver faces death-defying challenges

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Most people drive to work. Glenn Machado drives for work.

His office is the tow truck he drives for the state’s Freeway Service Patrol. He’s got a window view of an ocean of cars along the H-1 freeway.

His only stops? Breaks for the bathroom or for lunch. And, of course, when he sees a stranded driver along the freeway.

All in a day’s work.

"I’m not used to that," says the 44-year-old father of four, a former electrician who was laid off during the recession and started working for the state in June. "I’m the outdoor, hands-on-approach type of guy. But nothing wrong with a change of pace, I guess."

On Nov. 22 he got more than a change of pace. It was a shock to the system.

Heading east on the H-1 shortly after noon, Machado saw a four-car accident. Another fender bender, another person who needed to be towed off, he thought.

He pulled up and turned on his arrows so no one would hit the most damaged vehicle. Then a bystander told him, "She’s not breathing." A woman was in cardiac arrest.

He jumped into the car and found 64-year-old Darl Hunt, her body cold, her pulse gone. His instinct kicked in and he began cardiopulmonary resuscitation. No response.

"It’s not my job to write her off," he says. "So until it’s determined by professionals, we have to do what we can to try and help the person."

Just then, Honolulu police officer Richard Townsend arrived and helped Machado pull Hunt from her vehicle. Townsend began chest compressions while Machado continued CPR. An ambulance arrived moments later, and Hunt was whisked away, still lifeless.

Machado went home later that day, tired and depressed. He didn’t know Hunt’s name, but he scanned the news for any information on the woman’s status. Nothing.

It wasn’t until late December that Hunt contacted Machado, via Facebook of all things. "When she got ahold of me, I was totally blown out of the water," he says.

Hunt was determined to find out who her saviors were. She asked her Makiki neighborhood firefighters for help. They gave her a name. "At first I thought his name had one ‘n,’ and all these Glen Machados popped up and none of them fit the bill," Hunt says. "I tried two ‘n’s,’ and as soon as I did that, he popped up."

Machado called Hunt, tearful as he recalled his own good Samaritan, someone who had rescued his son from a burning vehicle 19 years ago. Their two families recently had dinner together.

"I think I’ve adopted them for the rest of my life," Hunt says. "I don’t imagine that they’ll not be in our lives after this."

It wasn’t the first time Machado may have saved a life. Some years ago in Makaha, a toddler had a seizure by the side of the road. The mother was panicking and Machado administered CPR. The baby began breathing again.

"Once I knew the baby was all right, I jumped in my car and went home," he says. "To me it’s just helping somebody. … It’s about doing what you need to do at the time."

In other words, all in a day’s work.

Gene Park can be reached at gpark@staradvertiser.com or on Twitter as @GenePark.

 

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