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Strangers Rescue Bartlesville Dementia Patient Wandering Near Highway

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Photo of the Talala Town Hall where Watts and her mother took the man for help. Photo of the Talala Town Hall where Watts and her mother took the man for help.
Photo of Jamie Watts, who stopped to help a stranger. Photo of Jamie Watts, who stopped to help a stranger.
Photo of Talala Town/Court Clerk Dawn Orwig, who gave the man something to drink and helped track down his daughter. Photo of Talala Town/Court Clerk Dawn Orwig, who gave the man something to drink and helped track down his daughter.
TALALA, Oklahoma - A Nowata woman says the sight of an elderly man walking in the cold along a busy rural highway was eating her up, and it may have saved his life.

Jamie Watts, 35, and her husband had left their home in Nowata on the morning of Wednesday, February 18, 2015 to go to a smoke shop near Talala on Highway 169 in Rogers County. 

As they neared the shop at about 11:30 a.m., they saw an elderly man walking along the highway. Watts thought it was odd that a man who appeared to be in his 70s and not wearing a coat would be walking on such a cold day in that area. She saw him again as she headed home to drop off her husband.

"Something inside me couldn't rest until I knew he was safe," she said. So after dropping off her husband, she picked up her mom and headed back to Talala.

She found the man still walking along Highway 169, almost two hours after she'd first spotted him. She and her mom got him into their car and then started looking for help. They found it at the Talala Town Hall, where town/court clerk Dawn Orwig brought them inside to warm him up.

Orwig called Talala Police and started working with Watts to figure out who the man was.  

"He continually spoke about his home being in Moberly, Missouri," Orwig said.

The three women found information in his wallet that led them to his daughter. She told them he lives in Bartlesville, 30 miles from where they found him. She told the women they were a Godsend. 

The daughter said the man has dementia. They're not sure if he walked all the way from Bartlesville to Talala or if someone gave him a ride part of the way, but the daughter was very grateful for the kindness shown by Orwig and Watts.

Orwig contacted the sheriff's office to tell deputies the man had been found. Watts and her mother took the man to their home in Nowata where he drank coffee with them before being reunited with his daughter. The daughter thanked and hugged the women then took the man home.

Watts said she's worked in healthcare for years and believes more should be done to help people in the man's situation. 

"There's got to be more awareness in the community for people with dementia or other mental illness," she said. She said her mother has mild dementia, too.

Watts believes the decision to stop and make sure the man was safe was "beyond" her. "My gut was just eating up in me. 'What if they find him dead tomorrow?'" she said.

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