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First Published Monday, 23rd June, 2008.

Autistic man lost a week is found alive

Area 1 mile west of camp had been searched 3 times before

Keith Kennedy, found alive on Sunday after being lost for seven days in the wilderness south of Grantsburg, Wis., is transported by stretcher to a waiting air ambulance. (Special to Pioneer Press: Priscilla Bauer, Inter-County Leader)

Her son was unable to speak, unable to walk and covered with ticks.

For Linda Kennedy, it was a wonderful sight.

“He’s alive,” she said Sunday night. “It’s miraculous.”

Keith Kennedy, her 25-year-old son with autism, had been missing for a week from a camp for developmentally disabled adults near Grantsburg, Wis.

Just as hopes were dimming in the weeklong search for him, Kennedy was found alive by a group of St. Paul and Maple Grove firefighters at about 7 p.m., lying next to a stream a mile west of Trade Lake Camp.

Linda Kennedy said her son appeared dehydrated and scraped up when she saw him briefly before he was transported by helicopter to the University of Minnesota Medical Center-Fairview.

The man was in

the intensive care unit this morning, but was stable and improving, a spokeswoman said.

“We just called his name and told him we’re here for him and he’s going to get better and he’s going to get help,” the mother said as she drove from Wisconsin to her son’s hospital.

“Other than some scrapes and cuts and being covered with bugs, he looked pretty darn good. We’re having a party right now,” Burnett County Sheriff Dean Roland said.

Hundreds of people had scoured the fields, forests and rivers near the camp for seven days, joined by searchers in helicopters, on horseback and in canoes.

Roland estimated more than 40 square miles had been searched.

Kennedy was found in rough terrain marked by swamps and thick brush. The area had been searched three times in the past week, Roland said, and about 70 searchers were about to conclude a fourth search Sunday night when they found Kennedy.

Hours before that, Roland had contemplated calling off the search.

Searchers also worried Kennedy was suffering because he hadn’t received needed anti-rejection medication for a kidney transplant he received in 1995.

“I will never forget the smile on Mom and Dad’s face after they heard their son was safe,” Roland said.

It is still not clear how Kennedy, who needs constant supervision, was able to walk away from the camp a week ago.

Kennedy, who lives in a Shoreview group home, had spent a week in each of the previous two summers at the Grantsburg camp without incident, veteran camp counselor Barb Denn said.

After dinner June 15, he was expected to get ready for bed but was reported missing about 8 p.m. The search began immediately.

Early on, some searchers were told he would hide from loud noises, including those created by search planes or ATVs, and wouldn’t answer if called.

His mother didn’t dwell on the search Sunday night as she drove to be with her son.

“Hopefully, he’ll survive this horrible ordeal. He’s an incredibly strong individual,” Linda Kennedy said.

Linda Kennedy prays as she awaits the arrival of her son. (Special to Pioneer Press: Priscilla Bauer, Inter-County Leader)

John Brewer can be reached at 651-228-2093.

Source: http://www.twincities.com/news/ci_9669321?source=rss


Further update:

Autistic man recovering well after a week lost in the woods

by Tom Weber, Minnesota Public Radio
June 23, 2008

Doctors at the University of Minnesota Hospital say a 25-year old autistic man is lucky to be alive today after spending a week in the woods of northwestern Wisconsin.

Minneapolis — Keith Kennedy was found Sunday night without any clothes on, covered in dirt and ticks, and suffering from hypothermia and dehydration.

He also had gone days without medicine he’s taken since having a kidney transplant in 1995.

But through all of that, doctors say he’s improving and they’re optimistic he’ll pull through.

Keith Kennedy’s parents say their son has always been a wanderer — any open door or window was an invitation to explore.

His mother Linda Kennedy says the question, “Where’s Keith?” was probably the most common phrase heard in their home.

“From about age 3 he’s been a runner, and our house, really, truly, was like Fort Knox. We had so many systems set up to make sure that he was safe and not going to escape,” said Linda Kennedy.

He’s been found before in stores and even a factory near the Kennedy home, but nothing ever like this.

The young man wandered away a week ago from the camp in Wisconsin he was attending for people with developmental disabilities.

One theory is his love for popcorn drew him back to the kitchen to sneak a snack, and he didn’t go straight back to his cabin for fear of getting caught.

Hundreds of volunteers spent last week scouring at least 14 square miles before two firefighters found Kennedy in a heavily wooded area that no one thought Keith would ever go into, though it had been searched before.

Kennedy’s father, Bruce, says it wouldn’t be surprising for searchers to miss a target in that area the first time. He says he and his wife didn’t even have confirmation their son was alive until the car ride out to the site.

“He really was filthy, and his eyes were glazed and he was moving slowly, but he was moving,” said Bruce Kennedy. “He even attended to me when I spoke to him and looked at me even though, through glazed eyes, I knew he was hearing me and so forth. Considering the alternative, it was awesome.”

Just why or how Keith disappeared will likely never truly be known. Keith’s autism limits his vocabulary to four words.

That limit also hampers doctors, who rely on patients to tell them what hurts.

Even after checking and double-checking for injuries, University of Minnesota Dr. Timothy Whelan says Kennedy is doing great. His body temperature is back to normal after being below 90.

The ticks that covered Kennedy’s body aren’t the kind that carry Lyme disease. And his kidneys are still functioning, albeit poorly.

“We’re all very hopeful the kidney’s going to turn around,” said Whelan. “I, personally, really think there’s a very high likelihood that he’s going to do tremendously well, but we just don’t know. We have to wait a little bit more time, at least a few days.”

Linda Kennedy says the happy ending makes the search an event everyone involved will always remember.

She’s resolved to help out the next time she hears of a missing person, and she hopes the incident doesn’t turn people off to these kinds of camps that she says truly do help people with disabilities.

Bruce Kennedy is also making changes. He says he’s been researching GPS chips that can be implanted under the skin to track a person that’s wandered away.

Source:  http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2008/06/23/manfoundfolo/?refid=0

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