The elderly doctor who survived more than three days and nights in the woods--through heat, thunderstorms, insect bites, and close encounters with animals--smiled from his hospital bed Friday, as the Suffolk County cops who found Dr. Jerome Nadler paid him a visit.
When asked how he was feeling, the 76-year old doctor weakly told PIX 11, "Better."
One of the officers squeezed Nadler's arm and said, "We're always here for you."
Lt. Brian Coltellino, one of the commanders of the Suffolk County K-9 Squad, later said of Thursday's discovery of Dr. Nadler, "25 years I'm on the Police Department, and it's probably the best day of my career."
Nadler's wife and daughter stood at his bedside, as medical personnel at Stony Brook University Hospital drew more blood from the retired physician, as he recovered from severe exposure to the elements, not to mention what one rescuer called "a million bug bites." Yet another searcher said of Nadler, "He looked like someone who survived in the middle of the ocean." Nadler's wife told PIX 11 her husband was a U.S. Navy veteran who served in Vietnam, and she believes that's what made him tough enough to get through his days-long ordeal.
Nadler had vanished on Monday morning, after checking in at Caleb Smith State Park in Smithtown at 6:30 am to go "fly fishing". He had parked his white Suburu and taken off down a path, dressed in fishing waders and boots. When Nadler didn't come back by 11 am, park rangers took note. When he didn't return by 1 pm, they notified his wife in East Setauket.
A search was launched on Monday for Nadler, using New York State Park Police and Suffolk County cops, who utilized helicopters for aerial views of the park, dogs, and volunteers on foot.
By Wednesday morning, torrential downpours and stifling humidity made the search near the Nissequogue River even more difficult, as the doctor's daughter, Jill, flew in from Orlando, Florida, to be with her mother and brother during the wait.
Just after 12 noon on Thursday, one of the police handlers for Chase, a 4-year old German Shepherd, came upon the search dog next to Dr. Nadler in one section of the woods. "He knows his indication is to lie down and stay with what he finds," Officer Samuel Barreto said of Chase. "I even tried to call him off, but he stayed with what he found."
The officers said Dr. Nadler somehow got on the other side of the Nissequogue River, away from the "fly fishing" area he was assigned to. They still haven't been able to ask him how he ended up there. When they found him, he knew his name and that he was a doctor and said he had been sleeping.
The doctor's rabbi, Motti Grossbaum from Chabad of Stony Brook, also visited the celebrated patient Friday. He said the message to be taken from Dr. Nadler's survival was this: "Never give up. We see that from Dr. Nadler's perseverence. He was in the elements for three nights and almost four days, dealing with bugs, animal creatures, two thunderstorms and heat. He pushed his way through. He said 'I have more to do in this world.'"
Rabbi Grossbaum said Dr. Nadler has traditonally attended weekly services at his synagogue, but "I told him he has the week off!"
Grossbaum expects that Nadler will be well enough to attend the service on September 16th for Rosh Hoshanah, the Jewish New Year, which marks the beginning of the High Holy Days. "I can't call it anything less than a miracle from God," Grossbaum told PIX 11. "The community is inspired."