Galveston family finds missing elderly woman in ditch after 36-hour ordeal


by Kevin Reece / KHOU 11 News

Posted on September 3, 2012 at 1:24 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 3 at 7:27 PM

HOUSTON -- A Houston woman, believed to be suffering from dementia, is recovering at UTMB after wandering alone for 36 hours in Galveston before being found, unconscious, in deep marsh grass in a roadside ditch.

Barbara Griffitts’ family first reported the 74-year-old woman missing at 2:30 a.m. Saturday when they realized she vanished from their travel trailer during a Labor Day weekend getaway at the Dellanera RV Park on the west end of Galveston.

Griffitts, a breast cancer survivor, had been showing signs of forgetfulness, but her daughter and husband told KHOU 11 News that she had never wandered away before.

“Being out there for 36 hours I mean you know it was probably pretty difficult for her to focus on one thing,” said her daughter Pam Jannergren. “I can’t imagine what was actually going through her mind. I know she was scared and didn’t know where she was.”

Despite a full-scale search that included Galveston Police, the Galveston Fire Department, the Coast Guard and Texas Equusearch, Griffitts remained missing until the Simon family of Galveston went for a Sunday afternoon walk from their home on Avenue V ½.

David and Lori Simon, a hundred yards from their home and a mile and a half from the RV park, saw Barbara Griffitts’ legs sticking out of the tall, swampy marsh grass.

“And she was just laying there on her back,” said Lori Simon. “We just went out for a walk in the afternoon and stumbled up on her.”

She was unconscious, dehydrated and was covered in mosquito and ant bites, but she was alive.

“Probably got lost and disoriented and got here,” said David Simon.

The Simon’s have the only house on their street. They realize that if they hadn’t chosen to go for a walk that Griffitts might not have been found at all.

“We really didn’t do anything,” said David Simon. “God had us at the right place at the right time and I’m glad somebody found her.”

“Thank you. Thank you for taking that Sunday stroll,” Griffitts’ daughter said at UTMB where her mother was reported in stable condition and expected to recover.

“Oh I feel blessed,” said Griffitts’ husband Gary Kilgore. “It was God’s plan for those people to be there that day at that moment.”

After 36 frightening hours on a Labor Day weekend vacation, the family now braces themselves for the struggles with dementia and the moments yet to come.