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CARUTHERSVILLE, Mo. — An 82-year-old woman is safe after spending several hours in sub-freezing temperatures, and an alert sanitation worker who found her is being called a hero.

Thelma Bates (submitted photo)

Thelma Bates, who suffers from dementia, wandered away from her Caruthersville, Missouri home Thursday morning.

Macario Chism drives a boom truck for Waste Pro and his route includes Caruthersville. 

He was notified about Bates’ disappearance and that she suffers from dementia, so Chism stayed on alert with one goal in mind.

“I gotta find that lady, ‘cause she done froze or she might be dead,” Chism said.

From the cab of his huge sanitation truck, Chism along with scores of first responders joined in the search. 

Within a few blocks of Bates’ home, Chism spotted something suspicious about this small metal backyard shop building.

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

He sprinted across a ditch and two backyards to reach the shivering woman. He gave her the coat he was wearing and carried her back to his truck, where he turned on the heater and called for help.

Dash cam video from Chism’s truck shows Bates being comforted by a first responder before she was taken to a local hospital for treatment.

Those involved in her search worried the woman would not survive after being outside for nearly six hours with no shoes and no coat.

But she did survive — thanks to Chism.

“He was taking his time, he was paying attention, and he found her and saved her life,” said Barry Gilmore, Code Enforcement officer with the city of Caruthersville. “I couldn’t be prouder of the guy.”

Bates is now resting at home with just some cuts and bruises.

Family members say they are “forever grateful” to Chism, and consider him part of their family.