Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lost In A Florida Swamp, Faith And Hope Bring Daughter Back Safely

An 11-year-old girl lost for four days deep in a swamp spent the time watching animals and praying until a former member of her church rescued her, her mother said.

Nadia Bloom had bug bites and bruises and was dehydrated when she was found this week, but was otherwise OK.

“This is a positive happy ending story.” Nadia’s mother, Tanya Bloom, said at a press conference. “It’s a story of hope that we want to share that with other families.”

While Nadia’s parents spoke with reporters in Florida, her rescuer, James King, was in New York making the rounds of television shows. He clutched a leather-and-gold Bible as he spoke with reporters outside the Manhattan studios of “Inside Edition.”

“God led me to her,” King said before describing what he encountered as he searched the swamp. “You can slip and fall, there’s a lot of mud, and you can’t always see where you’re walking. ”

King said he knows Nadia’s family because he used to attend the same church they did. He no longer belongs to the church, but would not say why he left. He joined other former church members who were searching for Nadia on Tuesday.

Tanya Bloom said her husband, Jeff, and their 8-year-old daughter were away on a camping trip last week when Nadia asked to go for a short bike ride. When she didn’t return about 20 minutes later, her mother got worried and started searching the neighborhood. Eventually, she called police.

“You do the best you can as a parent,” said Tanya Bloom, who also has a newborn. “Your children have to learn obedience and you have to trust them as well. I don’t feel like I made a mistake.”

Bloom said she and her husband thought Nadia might have wandered farther into the woods than authorities expected because she is an “out-of-the-box thinker.” The fifth-grader has Asperger’s syndrome, a type of autism-related disorder.

King said that as he got deeper into the wilderness looking for Nadia, he kept repeating verses from the Bible for guidance, including one from Proverbs that says, “Trust in Yahweh with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding … And He will direct your paths.”

Nadia recited these words with him once he found her, said King, who said he works for Elbit Systems of America, a subsidiary of an Israeli defense contractor.

King said he was surprised by how calm Nadia was when he reached her in a dry patch in the middle of the swamp.

“Hi. This is Nadia and I’m the girl that got lost,” she told a police dispatcher Tuesday after King dialed 911 and the dispatcher asked to speak with her.

Nadia was expected to spend a few days in the hospital so she can be treated for a bacterial infection she likely got from cuts or abrasions, said Dr. Mary Farrell, who treated her. She also had swollen feet and dehydration when she was brought to the hospital.

“It really is pretty remarkable,” Farrell said of the girl’s physical condition.

The discovery was welcome — and rare — in a state that has been plagued with missing children.

Winter Springs Police Chief Kevin Brunelle said Nadia told rescuers two things: “I’m glad you guys found me” and “I can’t believe you guys rescued me.”

It took nearly two hours for rescuers to carry Nadia out of the thick brush and swamp. Tanya Bloom said her daughter may have gone in because she wanted to take pictures and then gotten lost. Nadia had her camera with her in the woods, but her parents turned it over to police and haven’t been able to look at the pictures yet.

“We’re looking forward to the whole story,” said Jeff Bloom, when asked if he looked forward to seeing the photos. “It’s got to be awesome.”

Reuters; AP; Orlando Sentinel; writer Tamara Lush in Tampa and researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.

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