Lifestyle & Human Interest

Sanitation Worker Saves Elderly Woman with Dementia Missing in Below-Freezing Temperatures


Macario Chism of Missouri spends most of his days as a sanitation worker with Waste Pro USA, taking care of people’s trash. But on one day in January, that very job led him to become a hero.

On that day, 82-year-old Thelma Bates had gone missing at 3 a.m., triggering a Silver Alert. The woman suffers from dementia, and her family was terrified for her safety.

It also happened that it was only 16 degrees the morning she disappeared, and she hadn’t been wearing any shoes.

“Oh I was very worried sick,” Thelma’s oldest daughter, Marian Bates, told KAIT-TV. “The whole community came together.”

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“One of the city guys who’s a volunteer fireman called me early that morning after the Silver Alert had been issued,” Caruthersville code enforcement officer Barry Gilmore said told the station.

“None of us really thought that this would end the way it did.”

Aware of the Silver Alert and knowing that he would be working in Caruthersville, where Thelma was reported missing, Macario was determined to find her.

“Yes he told me several times, he said, ‘I felt in me that I had to find this lady,'” Chris Booker, also with Waste Pro USA, said.

“I gotta find that lady, because she either froze or she might be dead,” Chism told himself, according to WREG-TV.

At around 6:30 or 7:00 a.m., as he was near a property with a small backyard shop building, he noticed something off.

“I noticed the shop door had swung open from the wind, and it had closed, and then that’s when I noticed her on the ground in the shop,” Chism said. “And she raised up and then she fell back.”

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He ran to her and picked her up, then placed her in the cab of his truck and covered her bare feet, honking the horn to get someone’s attention. Eventually she was taken to a hospital, and although many were worried she would succumb to her time in the elements, she pulled through with just a few minor injuries.

The rescue meant a lot to Chism, who was reminded of his own grandmother

“My grandmother died in my arms,” he told KAIT. “Like… I couldn’t save her so I was just happy to save Mrs. Bates.”

“He was taking his time, he was paying attention, and he found her and he saved her life,” Gilmore said. “And again, I couldn’t be prouder of the guy.”

Thelma’s family are incredibly grateful to Chism and consider him family after his heroics.

“If it weren’t for Cario, probably today we would probably be putting some flowers on my mother grave today… if it weren’t for Cario,” Renee Bates, another family member, said.

Chism was also recognized by KAIT, which presented him with March’s Gr8 Acts of Kindness award, reminding him again just how much his actions were appreciated.

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