Four days after wandering away from his parents during a hiking trip in the forests of West Virginia, an autistic teen has been found — and it was the surrounding woods that helped keep him alive.
Jacob Allen, 18, was found resting peacefully in a brush clearing under an umbrella of foliage in Dolly Sods Wilderness Area.
He is quickly recovering from his happy ending.
"My son is amazingly doing well," his mother, Karen Allen, said on "Good Morning America" today. "I just spent the night with him in the hospital. He's a little restless, but that's great, because he's eating, drinking and very alert."
The visit was a welcome break from the last few days, spent furiously searching for Jacob.
"We were sweeping a river," his mother said, "and we got called back together. And I saw my husband start crying. I said, 'It's either really good news or really bad news.' And our leader waited until we were all together and just told us, 'Jacob is alive.'"
After a quick meal of candy bars and peanut-butter sandwiches, Jacob was reunited with his family fatigued but in good health.
"They brought him down on a basket-type thing and — just to see his face. He looked at me. He looked at me like he was a little mad. I thought that I'd left him up there," Allen said, explaining that Jacob didn't say anything because he is nonverbal, with the mental capacity of a 3- or 4-year-old child.
"I just saw a blond head of hair," said Jeremy Reneau, the rescuer who found Allen. "He was just lying down in the woods taking a nap or resting. He was asleep. I called out his name and he rolled over. He didn't have much a reaction, but I could tell he recognized me. And once I gave him food he was able to sit up and you could tell he was hungry and thirsty."
Even though the odds of finding him grew slighter by the day, Jacob's sister Brittney, 22, never gave up hope.
"We've got the mindset we are going to find him," she said on "GMA" Wednesday, two days before Jacob was found.
Allen remembers the moment when she learned her son had been found. "We are just thrilled. And amazed really," she said.
The family said it will celebrate the reunion with a little dessert.
"I think we'll all have a big bowl of ice cream together," Allen said. "We love ice cream. Everybody kept saying, 'Jacob, we got some ice cream for you.'"