A 67-year-old grandfather who ran out of gas while driving his pickup truck through the freezing cold southern Washington wilderness has been found alive five days after he disappeared. And his ordeal may have saved his life, his family said today.
After Dick Sturm was rescued last Friday he was hospitalized and received a CAT scan that revealed a brain tumor and cranial bleeding, his daughter, Julie Nelson, told area ABC affiliate KATU News.
Make no mistake, being diagnosed with a brain tumor means Sturm has another incredible fight ahead of him. But his daughter said the tumor might not have been found if he hadn't gotten lost.
"If this had not happened, it would have been hard to get him to go to the doctor," Nelson told KATU.
Nelson said her father must have gotten confused as he drove on back roads on Sunday, Dec. 8. When his truck ran out of gas, Sturm found himself alone in a woodland clearing, authorities said.
On Friday, a bow hunter found him alert and uninjured.
Even though he's faced with a tough road ahead, Sturm's most recent brush with death may be indicative of the fight he'll put up against the brain tumor.
Cowlitz County Sheriff Mark Nelson said Sturm, a Navy veteran, was relatively prepared for a harrowing situation like this. He had blankets in his truck, and survived on a Snickers bar and water from the melting ice on the hood of his truck.
"We like to recommend that people keep a small 72-hour survival kit, but he did make a lot of good decisions based on all the circumstances," the sheriff told ABCNews.com.
Sturm is in fair condition at Oregon Health and Science University, where he's awaiting treatment for his brain tumor, his family said. He needs an MRI, but can't have one at the moment because of the presence of a defibrillator in his chest.
"We're certainly hoping he'll be able to beat it, but we need these tests to determine what's next," Julie Nelson told ABCNews.com.
In the meantime, Sheriff Nelson said he wants to thank his community for consistently pulling through to help those in need.
"The fact he discovered he has other medical issues means everybody's looking at this as a mixed blessing," Sheriff Nelson said.