'It was like a miracle:' Woman, 98, rescued after spending night in woods

Elizabeth Parker was missing for nearly 24 hours in Lake County

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – Inside room 653 at Florida Hospital Waterman in Tavares on Monday, 98-year-old Elizabeth Parker is in good spirits with just a scratch on her head and a big smile on her face, grateful to be alive. 

"Thank you, thank you," she said, thinking back to the first responders who found her hidden underneath palm fronds in the woods Saturday morning, marking the end of a search that started on Friday. 

Parker's daughter, Katie Wayne, said her mother disappeared from their Lake County home suddenly.

"The last thing I saw she was taking a nap and then you come home and she's gone," Katie Wayne said. 

She and her husband, Gary Wayne, came home from dinner around 8 p.m. Friday night and after a quick check of the property, immediately called 911. Within minutes, an entire search team was in. 

However by 2:30 a.m. Saturday, Parker was still nowhere to be found. 

"When all of these people, these bloodhounds and these helicopters didn't find her I was like, 'Oh man this is is going to be bad,'' Gary Wayne said. "I was like being in a really bad movie."

"I was thinking Mother's Day," Katie Wayne added. "I would never ever be able to stand again, never, ever because we were supposed to watch over her."

Neither of them slept and the search continued the next morning. It was around 9 a.m. when a Lake County deputy stumbled right over Parker, hidden underneath palm fronds. 

"It just kept getting darker and darker," Parker said from her hospital bed. "I just made myself a bed."

"I couldn't believe it," Gary Wayne said. "The next thing I know, she stands up, it was like Lazarus rising from the ashes."

Parker was taken to the hospital with just a few scratches, including one on her forehead. There it was the first time Katie and Gary Wayne heard Parker is beginning to experience dementia. It was the first time, they say, she's every wandered away from home and they're thankful this is how it ended. 

According to the family, Parker is scheduled to be released from the hospital on Tuesday. 

"It was like a miracle," Katie added. 

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