Getting lost in woods might have saved Longview man's life

Getting lost in woods might have saved Longview man's life »Play Video
Richard Sturm.

LONGVIEW, Wash. - A Longview man is lucky to be alive after spending five nights alone in the woods during this week's deep-freeze. 

He's just as lucky he went to the hospital.

Five days after Dick Sturm went missing, a hunter stumbled across him Friday morning.

"I just kept saying I know he's out there. I know I can bring him home,” said his daughter, Julie Nelson. 

Sturm has a long road ahead of him - but not because of his ordeal in the woods.

Going to the hospital, in fact, might have saved his life; when he went, he learned he has a brain tumor.
    
Rescue crews brought Strum from the top of Germany Creek Road, northwest of Longview, to St. John’s Hospital. He remained there all day Friday being treated for hypothermia and dehydration, but he also got another diagnosis.

“They took him back for a cat scan and we had to have a pow-wow after that and we were told that he does have a brain tumor and that there's some bleeding around them and there are a couple of different spots,” Nelson said.

Strum is at OHSU in intensive care.

His entire family knows he has a battle ahead of him, perhaps even more challenging than the one he just fought.
   
"He said he did a lot of praying. He said he did a lot of thinking,” Nelson said.

She’s been praying too. She launched a search effort from her kitchen table Monday morning with the help of family, friends, even strangers. By week’s end, Nelson knew time was running out.

"This morning was tough. This morning was tough,” she said.

Then Nelson got a phone call that a hunter had found her dad alive, with his truck.

“I could hardly believe it,” she said.

Nelson said her dad doesn’t like taking main roads, such as Interstate 5.  On Sunday, he was supposed to be driving from her home in Castle Rock to his house in Longview, going over Delemeter Road.  He ended up almost 17 miles away in rugged terrain on Germany Creek Road.

"Apparently he was off of a spur, off of a spur," she said. "So basically he had probably gotten out there and got confused.  And when he went to turn around, at the end there's like a landing. And the front of his truck is on top of a tree."

Sturm knew how to survive in the woods, Nelson said. He’s an avid outdoorsman and a Navy veteran. He had blankets in his full-size Chevrolet truck. 

Nelson said he lived off a Snicker’s bar and a bottle of water.  When that was gone, he relied on his survival skills.

"He said for water, he was scraping the hood of his truck when it was icy," she said. 

Nelson said her dad had been acting a little confused over the past few weeks.  She said he can be “stubborn” about going to the doctor.

"If this had not happened, it would have been hard to get him to go to the doctor,” she said.

Nelson said her dad, and their entire family, is grateful so many people rallied around them during the search.

"Thank you for all your thoughts, all your prayers, all your help, all your support,” she said.

Now, Sturm needs more of those thoughts and prayers as he prepares to fight for his health.

Nelson said it’s too early to know how long her dad will be at OHSU; it’s too soon to know his prognosis or how doctors plan to treat it. The family is focusing on having a father, and grandfather, back and will deal with the future as it comes.