On Sunday morning, May 3, Paul Manganella was driving home to Bourne to clear his home of a sudden termite infestation and Jennifer Smith was on her way off-Cape to buy a chicken coop. Little did they know that they would soon team up to help save the life of a complete stranger.
The weekend had already gotten off to an unconventional start for Mr. Manganella, a Sandwich High School grad, and his fiancée, Emma Kelley.
The pair had gone on a socially distanced hike with another couple on Saturday, May 2, and returned home to find their house swarming with thousands of flying termites. Even their 100-pound dog, Bodhi, went cowering in a bedroom to avoid being overwhelmed by the insects.
Mr. Manganella said Ms. Kelley is a clean fanatic, which made the sudden infestation even more upsetting.
“Our house is a very clean place,” he said.
They decided to give up on the house for the day. Ms. Kelley went to her parents’ house and Mr. Manganella went to stay with a friend for the night. The next morning he went to Home Depot in Hyannis, where he waited in line for an hour to buy supplies to rid the house of the infestation.
Around 10:30 AM, on the Mid-Cape Highway between Exit 2 and the Sagamore Bridge, Mr. Manganella spotted a commotion on the roadway ahead of him. He said cars were moving oddly between the lanes, as though there was something in the road.
All of a sudden he saw a white pickup truck trying to nudge a black pickup truck to the shoulder of the highway. Both vehicles were traveling at highway speed.
Once both vehicles had stopped, the driver of the white truck, wielding a pipe, jumped out of his vehicle and ran toward the black truck.
Thinking he was witnessing a violent road rage attack, Mr. Manganella pulled his car over and started filming what was happening with his cellphone in case the footage was needed in court. He confronted the man, who said his name was Gamble, and asked what he was doing.
Gamble said he had seen the driver of the black truck pass out behind the wheel, and he had pushed the vehicle to the side of the road. Now, he said, he was using the pipe to smash open the window and try to get the unconscious driver out of the locked truck.
Mr. Manganella dropped his phone to the ground and jumped into action to help.
Once Gamble had shattered the window, Mr. Manganella pulled the glass away with his bare hands. The car was still in drive and the driver, a Yarmouth man in his 60s who they later learned was named David, still had his foot near the gas pedal. He was not breathing.
They managed to pull David out of the car and got him into the bed of the truck, where Mr. Manganella began CPR.
By this time Ms. Smith had seen what was going on, and her instincts as a retired paramedic kicked in.
She pulled over to help, and she and Mr. Manganella took turns giving breaths and performing chest compressions until the Sandwich Fire Department arrived.
It was determined that David had suffered a heart attack while driving.
“The thing I find the most miraculous is the fact that he did not wreck in that lane,” Mr. Manganella said. “He must have passed out going 60 miles per hour.”
Later, as a paramedic was pulling glass out of his hand, Mr. Manganella was told that he was going to have to go to Cape Cod Hospital to be tested for COVID-19 since he had come in contact with David’s saliva. He was also told that he would have to quarantine for two weeks under the assumption that he has the illness.
He said the idea of catching the coronavirus did not even cross his mind while performing CPR.
From the hospital he called Ms. Kelley, who was at their house to pack some of her belongings so she could stay at her parents’ house until the bugs were gone. He told her she had to leave now and could not come back for 14 days while he was quarantined.
Unable to stay with his fiancée, Mr. Manganella is quarantining alone in their house with Bodhi.
“The last person I was physically in contact with was David,” he said.
He has not yet received the results of his COVID-19 test.
He said Ms. Kelley has been supportive throughout the quarantine and has been dropping off groceries and sitting outside his window so they can spend time together.
Mr. Manganella said in the days after the incident he has been told that he is a hero, a title he does not feel applies to him.
“I feel very awkward being called that because I think this is something that anyone would do,” he said. “It’s not at all about the content of my character, it’s about community and empathy.”
Within hours of the event Mr. Manganella was contacted by David’s daughters, granddaughters, sister and girlfriend. He has kept in touch with David’s girlfriend, who has been keeping Mr. Manganella informed about how he is doing. While he has a bit of a road to healing ahead of him, his prognosis is good.
He said David is a US Marine Corps veteran who has eight grandchildren.
Ms. Smith said that in her 40 years of experience as a firefighter and paramedic she has never seen a civilian response as organized and calm as what she took part in on Sunday.
“I’ve stopped at a lot of scenes and have never seen one that was so beautifully performed,” she said. “The citizens who stopped just blew my mind.”
She said people usually have good intentions but can get in the way without realizing it. This time, it was different.
“There were no egos,” she said. “Everybody was just helping each other out, caring for each other and caring for him.”