A 69-year-old grandmother who disappeared for five days was found lying in a creek bed, unable to move or speak, but very much alive, her overjoyed family said Wednesday.
Sandra Adams was reported missing on July 5 by distraught relatives who combed her North Carolina home but could find no trace of the beloved woman known for her fantastic cooking and loving heart.
"We went everywhere," her 33-year-old grandson, Nate Cassel, told InsideEdition.com. "We went to places we thought she might be at, friends' houses, the bus terminal." All to no avail, he said.
His mother, Gloria Haggins, helps care for the elderly woman, who lives in a seniors' apartment complex in Charlotte. When she went to Adams' house the day after the Fourth of July, Adams was nowhere to be found. "The TV was on, and there was a Diet Coke with a straw in it, but she wasn't there," Cassel said.
His mother called police and filed a missing persons report. Then family and friends gathered, printed out fliers with Adams' photograph on them, and started canvassing the area.
What followed was five days of hell, Cassel said. "Oh my God. Couldn't sleep. My appetite was gone. It was very, very, very hard. My mom was devastated. She cried for days." Around the same time, a woman was kidnapped in Charlotte and it was all over local news outlets. "We didn't know if it was my grandmother, we thought it could be her," Cassel said.
His older brother, Santonio, and a friend of his decided on Monday they would beat their way through the dense woods behind his grandmother's building. The trees were so dense and the copse so crowded with undergrowth, searchers had not gone in because it seemed impossible the elderly woman would fight her way through it.
Far back in the brush, Santorio and his friend did find Adams. She was lying on her stomach, not moving and seemingly dead.
Nate, his mother, and his little sister were driving back from talking with police investigating Adams' disappearance, when a very hysterical Santonio called on his cellphone.
"My brother just screamed, 'I found her! She's laying here dead!' He was crying. I broke down crying," Nate recounted. His mother was beside herself. Then they heard Nate's friend holler, "Hold on! I see her leg moving! She alive!"
Nate, his mom and sister arrived on the scene as paramedics were loading Adams onto a gurney to wheel her out of the woods. "I said, 'Grandmomma,' and she just said, 'Ambulance.'''
She knew she needed to get to a hospital, he said.
Adams is currently in an intensive care unit, being treated for a stroke she suffered while she was missing. She is unable to speak, her grandson said, and is very weak. Her family has no idea how she ended up in the woods or what happened to her.
She has suffered two strokes in the past, he said, and has a little trouble with her balance. She also takes insulin for her diabetes.
"We're waiting on her to tell us what happened," he said. She is able to open her eyes and squeezes her grandson's hand when he visits.
She has never gotten lost before, he said, and thus far hasn't experienced any memory issues or signs of dementia. She's always been the rock of their family.
"She helped raise me and my brother," Cassel said. "She always loved us ... she cooked everyday like it was Sunday — fried chicken, chitlins, sweet potatoes. She's a very, very strong lady. I'd call her a soldier."
For now, his family is simply rejoicing the return of their matriarch and relying on faith that she will fully recover.
"Man, I just said, 'God, thank you,'" when he learned his grandmother was alive, Cassel recounted. "Thank you for blessing us.'''