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Ranger Says Missing Ohio Man’s Condition Helped Him Survive

September 13, 1985

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) _ An autistic 21-year-old man survived five days of wet and potentially fatal cold weather in the Adirondacks because his condition helped him avoid panic and despair, a search official said Friday.

District Ranger Louis Curth said most people would have given up and died of exposure.

″If he had been a normal person, without this autism, he probably would not have reacted as well,″ Curth said.

Ronald Adams, of Whitehouse, Ohio, was upgraded to satisfactory condition Friday at Placid Memorial Hospital where he was receiving treatment for mild hypothermia and trenchfoot, said hospital spokeswoman Cheryl Breen.

A birthday cake was prepared on Friday for Adams, who turned 21 on Tuesday.

Curth said lost people usually people begin to worry and panic leads them into despair.

″Mr. Adams, since he really had no capacity to think these things through, was really reacting like a wounded animal. It’s really a tribute to him,″ Curth said.

″If he had medical problems, or if he’d been elderly, or if he hadn’t been as young and strong as he was, he might not have survived. I frankly wonder if he’d have survived another night,″ Curth said.

Adams had wandered away Saturday afternoon from a group of hikers from Bittersweet Farms, a suburban Toledo facility for the mentally handicapped.

The search, which ended Thursday when two rangers found Adams, was complicated because Adams’ autism makes him difficult to communicate with and unlikely to respond to calls. Autism is a state of mind characterized by hallucinations and daydreaming.

Curth said Adams’ temperature was 96 degrees when he was found.

Adams was lying down in only his underwear, Ranger John Dalton said, having lost or removed his shirt and boots sometime Wednesday. It was the discovery of the clothing and fresh tracks that searchers took as evidence he was still alive late Wednesday.

Temperatures in the mountains dropped into the high 20s Wednesday night. Adams was prone, a sign he was succumbing to the effects of hypothermia, when he was found Thursday morning, Dalton said.

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