Arrowsmith Search and Rescue are crediting Project Lifesaver with helping them find a missing 79-year-old Parksville man with dementia.
“We were called at approximately twenty to three to say that we had a missing dementia subject in Parksville who had wandered away from his home,” said Arrowsmith SAR’s Ken Neden.
A team of Arrowsmith volunteers prepared to look for him knowing he was wearing a Project Lifesaver transmitter, a watch-like device that can help searchers in the event the person wearing it goes missing.
“We know that we have a list of the different clients so we just punch their frequency into the receiver we have and then begin scanning the area as we move around,” said Neden. “And once we pick up a signal we can start to home in on a direction.”
They didn’t know where the man went so teams in three vehicles began driving around Parksville hoping to hear a signal on their receivers.
“It took two, two and a half hours and we were expanding outwards and then one of our teams on the Inland Highway just got a quick beep,” added Neden.
Kelly Vanrookhuyzen was driving the vehicle south on Highway 19 when she and her partner noticed the missing man walking northbound on the shoulder near the Alberni Highway exit.
“My partner says stop and I look at him and he says stop and I hear the beeping of the receiver and look over and something catches my eye and there he is,” she said.
Another member picked him up moments later.
After four years of searching for people with Arrowsmith SAR, this was the first time Vanrookhuyzen had found someone and he was in good condition.
“It was quite the experience,” Vanrookhuyzen said, “We were able to bring him back to his family who was worried about him.”
If the man didn’t have the Project Lifesaver device it could have been a different ending and Arrowsmith SAR are encouraging others to get it.
Project Lifesaver is a non-profit organization that provides education around protecting to first responders and caregivers and offers transmitting technology designed to help searchers locate individuals with cognitive disorders if they go missing.
“Getting one of these [transmitters] makes it really easy for us to find the person because with Alzheimer’s and dementia if someone goes missing you really don’t know which direction then went,” said Neden.
Founded in Virginia in 1999, Project Lifesaver’s transmitters — and its educational programs — are used across North America.
Nanaimo Lifeline administers the program and can be reached at 250-947-8213.