Thomas”Randy” Gatewood went missing in 2007. The 79-year-old Air Force Veteran has dementia and after he went missing from his Yuma, Arizona home, his family feared the worst, assuming after a long search and a missing person’s report, they would never see their dear family member again.
“I hate to say it, but I thought he was probably deceased and that’s the story I’ve been telling family and friends for quite some time,” Randy’s brother, Gene said.
Gene’s daughter pushed for the family to go to an “Identify the Missing Day” event being held close by. The family updated their missing person’s report, had a coroner perform a swab test for DNA and worked with a National City Police Department officer for further investigation. The officer later called to tell Gene of records stating that on September 1, 2011, Randy was admitted to Paradise Valley Hospital in National City, California, sadly after a report of domestic abuse by his caretaker. He had been left in a motel for two days without food and water and serious medical needs before being admitted to the hospital. Medical records helped Gene track Randy to Bella Vista Health Center in Lemon Grove, California.
Randy and Gene grew up not only as brothers but as best friends. After nearly ten years apart, the brothers are now reunited. Randy’s shocked, jaw-dropped expression quickly transitioned into tears after seeing his niece again.
Upon seeing Randy, his brother knelt down in front of his wheelchair and asked, “Do you know who I am?”
‘My brother?” Randy asked.
“Yes, Randy,” his brother said excitedly as his niece, Laura, cried tears of joy and relief in response. Randy had been taken care of all these years, in the hands of dedicated nurses and hospital staff. He was brought back ultimately by a strong family who, though they once had to consider his death, never stopped searching for their dear brother and uncle, until the found him alive and well.
It’s incredible to think this man could have been left for dead, but was so incredibly loved by an entire community of people, from the probably stranger who admitted Randy to the hospital after he was neglected, to the nurses, his persistent family and the investigative officer who took special time and care to look into this case, all to help one man find his own way back home. If you love learning of the strength of family and community, be sure to share this incredible story with friends and family on Facebook!