Cop uses cellphone GPS to help rescue diabetic trucker

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | Thursday, May 09, 2013

An Ohio trucker is on the road to recovery after lapsing into a diabetic coma while he was parked at a New Hampshire truck stop.

Richard O’Bara, 54, an owner-operator from Masury, OH, was found unresponsive in his truck by employees at a TA Travel Center in Greenland, NH, during the afternoon of May 1.

O’Bara was rushed to a local hospital, where he remained in a coma for several days, according to his wife, Lovetta Morrow.

“He’s improving every day,” Morrow said in a telephone interview with Land Line on Thursday. “Now he’s in his second day out of the coma.”

Morrow said her husband’s first question when they spoke on Tuesday was “Where’s my truck?”

“I said, ‘I love you too!’” she said.

The couple have been married for 11 years, and O’Bara has been trucking for more than 30 years. Morrow said she accompanied him over the road for about a year and a half, but a back ailment forced her to give up her seat in the cab.

Morrow said the trip started out normally. Her husband picked up a load of bound steel in Missouri and headed for the delivery location in Maine.

“This is what I think started it: He had to use his brakes quickly, and the load shifted and damaged the truck,” she said. “It damaged the bulkhead.”

Morrow said her husband discovered the damages when he pulled into a truck stop in Seville, OH, and had to reload the steel. By the time he got to the delivery point in Maine, he was starting to exhibit symptoms of a diabetic reaction, such as slurred speech.

“They called the police because they thought he was drunk,” she said, adding her husband does not drink.

As O’Bara started his return trip to Ohio with a cargo of military Humvees, his wife said he called her frequently to tell her he felt like he was getting sick.

“He would call and say, ‘I don’t feel good. I’m just sick,’” she said. “He thought he just had the flu.”

Then the calls stopped altogether, and Morrow’s concern became worse.

“Last time I talked to him he said he was in Pennsylvania,” she said. “I started calling the police in Ohio. There were no accidents. Called Pennsylvania state police, and they didn’t have anything either.”
 
Morrow said she tried calling Sprint, her husband’s cellphone carrier, herself to see if they could locate him based on his phone’s GPS coordinates, but a representative told her that data could only be released to law enforcement.

Frantically, she went to her local police station in Brookfield, OH, to file a report.

O’Bara’s story could have had an unhappy ending were it not for the work of a Brookfield police officer, Morrow said.

Officer Gerald Hockey took the report from Morrow, and recognized that the most likely cause of O’Bara’s erratic behavior was a medical emergency related to his diabetes.

Hockey said he was able to look up a number for Sprint’s law enforcement medical hotline within a few minutes on the Internet.

“I told them it was a medical emergency, and they faxed me a form, which I filled out and faxed back with a police department cover letter,” he said. “They told me to call them back after I’d done that. They looked over the form, and gave me a GPS coordinate right over the phone. I plugged it into Google maps, found the closest truck stop, and that’s where he happened to be.”

The GPS coordinates translated to the parking lot of the TA Travel Center in Greenland, which Morrow contacted immediately. Workers at the truck stop went outside and found her husband’s rig with him inside.

“They found him,” she said. “He was all slumped over, his eyes were closed, and his tongue was hanging out – but he was breathing.”

Morrow said her husband’s condition has improved, but he still faces some hurdles.

“He’s got blood clots in both his arms; he can’t use his arms at all right now,” she said. “It doesn’t look like he’s coming out anytime soon. We don’t have insurance, so we’re really screwed. Got a piece of property we’re going to sell so we can help pay the hospital bill.”
 
An anonymous citizen donated some money on Thursday to help her get to the hospital in New Hampshire.

“I appreciate everybody’s concern,” she said. “There’s been a lot of prayers going up for him, and that’s most important. People’s compassion has just been wonderful.”

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