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Minnesota DOT Worker Rescues Stricken Motorist

February 02, 2011

For the second time in five months, a Minnesota AFSCME member has rescued a motorist from life-threatening danger on a highway.

One early morning in December, Julie Todora – a member of Local 122 (Council 5) – was doing her daily rounds for the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s (MnDOT) Freeway Incident Response Safety Team (FIRST). Driving north on Route 169, she noticed a truck ahead veer off the road and crash into a snow bank. Todora rushed towards the vehicle and found a man slumped behind the wheel. “He was not breathing and had no pulse,” she recalls. The motorist apparently suffered a heart attack.

Within seconds, Todora began administering CPR and, with the use of an automated external defibrillator, applied shock treatments on the patient’s chest to jolt the man’s heart back into natural rhythm. FIRST drivers began carrying defibrillators four years ago.

The stricken man regained consciousness and was taken to a nearby hospital where he was reported to be in stable condition. Volunteer firefighters who arrived at the scene minutes later also assisted.

“I was very much relieved when I heard him moaning and groaning,” said Todora, who has worked for MnDOT for 12 years. “I thought it was a fantastic sign.”

In July, another AFSCME member rescued a mother and her two young children from a sinking car. Don Machacek, a member of Local 2792 (Council 5), responded to an emergency call about a car that plowed into a muddy embankment. The driver had misjudged the location of her exit.

Deployed in Minnesota’s highways to clear traffic congestion caused by crashes and stalled vehicles, Todora and Machacek are also on the lookout for stranded motorists and accident victims. Often first on the scene to provide emergency assistance and save lives, these public workers don’t think of themselves as heroes.

“You see a vehicle go off the road and then you see the snow fly,” says Todora. “It’s like something I see everyday. This time we had a little action. A man is not breathing but minutes later he is gasping for air. I’m just happy that he’s going to be with his family for Christmas.”

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