It’s been several days since a massive, three-day search reunited seniors Jerry and Lori Rushton, and they are still trying to come to grips with the ordeal.
“It seemed like people from all over the world were praying for me. It was amazing what everyone did for us,” Lori Rushton said outside her South Lakeside home Wednesday, Oct. 20. “We have a wonderful, wonderful community. It’s amazing what everyone did.”
With her husband Jerry by her side, the two get emotional when they recount the day Lori walked out her front door on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 14, and vanished. She was the subject of an intense search and rescue operation as she remained missing two nights and three days outdoors, disoriented in the thick, dark woods nearby.
“I kissed her and cried,” Jerry said of when he was reunited with his wife Saturday afternoon. “She said, ‘do you still like me?’ I said, ‘I do.’ We’re just like two peas in a pod. I’m scared to let her out of my sight now.”
Jerry describes the hours that his wife of 57 years was missing as, “very, very long, hard nights. No sleep for 36 hours. I just couldn’t sit still.”
Search and rescue volunteers from Kamloops, 100 Mile House and Quesnel as well as Canadian Rangers had come to assist members of the Central Cariboo Search and Rescue with the search, while the RCMP were involved within hours of Lori’s disappearance as well. Hundreds of neighbours, family members and even strangers searched for Lori and offered prayers and words of encouragement.
It was South Cariboo Search and Rescue members who located Lori. Member Sean Empey said the team started out on the top of Dog Creek Road on Saturday morning at 8 a.m. and started working toward Evergreen Street, where the couple live.
“We followed a grid and crisscrossed, covering 13 kilometres,” Empey said.
One of the team members spied Lori’s red coat and approached her.
He asked if she was Lori and when she answered ‘yes’, he told her people had been looking for her.
As soon as Lori’s niece Marnie Howell heard that her aunt had been found she bolted up into the forest to find her.
Once she was with her aunt she asked one of the rescuers to take some photographs of Marnie so she could send them to the family all waiting below.
“I said to her, ‘so, did you have any animals visit you?’ Marnie said. “She said, ‘no, but I had some crows and some ravens the one day and the two days, but they couldn’t get anyone to help me. And then the third day they got me some help.”
Lori was brought down through the forest on a stretcher and then put into an ambulance.
Close family members visited Lori briefly in the ambulance before she was transported to Cariboo Memorial Hospital for further assessment.
Ronald a, Lori’s brother, said it was a miracle she was found alive.
“When I talked to her she said she got a free toque and I said to her, ‘you do the damnedest thing to get something for free,” Haines said.
This week, Lori said she has another doctor’s appointment to better understand why she got confused the day she went missing, and next week Interior Health is coming to the home as well.
“Talk to someone before you go out that door,” Lori said of the advice she has for other seniors aging at home. “And don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
Jerry agrees it’s important to get the health supports needed, and he’s just thankful he gets more time with his sweetheart.
“We always have loved each other and we will continue to love each other even more, if that’s possible … it sure hits home when something like this happens.”
– With files from Monica Lamb-Yorski.