Scout Recovering From Dehydration

The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 21, 2007; 8:00 PM

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The 12-year-old Boy Scout rescued after spending four days lost in the rugged North Carolina mountains remained hospitalized Wednesday, recovering from severe dehydration and exposure to cold.

Michael Auberry had lost feeling in his fingers and toes by the time rescue workers found him Tuesday morning. But his father, who said his son was experiencing "frost nip," said feeling was returning to his son's fingers and doctors expected the same for his toes.

Kent Auberry said his son was even cracking a few jokes.

"Just the difference between yesterday and today, Michael is coming back to us," Auberry said. "This was a pretty traumatic experience for him. He felt alone as he could feel, and thought, 'I have screwed up.'"

Michael wandered away from his campsite on Saturday, setting off an intensive search involving dogs, heat-seeking aircraft and dozens of park rangers and volunteers. His fellow Scouts thought he had just gone to clean his mess kit after eating, but they grew worried as the time wore on.

Michael was found Tuesday by a search dog named Gandalf, who caught the boy's scent about a mile from the Scout troop's camp site. Riding down the mountain in an ambulance with his parents, the boy learned his 8-year-old sister had tracked the search and rescue effort for her older brother by watching television news reports.

Auberry said his son immediately asked, "Did you TiVo it?"

Upset some of his friends were not on the camping trip, Michael was apparently homesick and looking for a road so he could hitchhike home, Auberry said. But his family hasn't pressed him for more details just yet on why he went into the woods with nothing but his mess kit and some potato chips.

It only took about 15 minutes for the boy to realize it wasn't a smart move, his father said. But by that time, he was already lost.

Michael tried to find his scout troop once he realized he had wandered too far from their campsite, his father said. Unable to do so, he tried to stay dry and find a secure place _ things he had learned as a Scout.

He heard the search helicopters people calling him, but he yelled back and they didn't hear him, his father said. At night, when the temperature dropped into the 20s, Michael replayed episodes of "SpongeBob SquarePants" in his head to entertain himself. Without any food left, he survived on creek water.

"He's pretty overwhelmed by his experience outdoors. He said he doesn't want to think about it," his father said, his voice choking up at times. "He told me he prayed he would starve to death, so he could go to heaven."

The boy was recovering at a hospital in Greensboro, and it wasn't clear how soon he would be released. Meanwhile Wednesday, a celebration service was held at the family's church for friends who prayed and hoped for his safe return.

His father said that Michael lost his hat and glasses during his time in the woods, but managed to hang on to his two jackets _ something he joked was an accomplishment for his son.

"On a regular school day, he doesn't do that," he said.

© 2007 The Associated Press