Mom grateful to all who helped find her son

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A Flagler County mother says she is thankful to everyone who helped find her son.

Rickey Wheeler is recovering at Arnold Palmer Hospital, though mom Tyisha says he's having trouble walking and lost a lot of weight after going missing for almost five days.  Still, she is glad to have him back

"He's doing great!  He's doing really well, and he's just resting," she says.

She is relieved that her 17-year-old son was found alive and well.

"They came and told me they had found him. I was just ecstatic."

When she finally got to see her son.

"I kissed him and kept kissing him. I touched his face, and he was really happy to see me but you could tell he was really weak, but it was just awesome."

She says her son is mentally disabled and has muscular dystrophy.

"I was just amazed, because I didn't think he was capable of surviving out there. Especially for this long." 

She says they often watch nature shows, like Survivor, and she believes that's what helped save her son.  He was found dehydrated and full of mosquito bites.

"After watching those shows he was really paying attention. Those types of shows are great to have."

She also believes Rickey had some help.

"He definitely had an angel watching over him as well."

Tony and Dawn Butrym were the first two volunteers who participated in the search for Rickey. They are also the ones who found his clothes in a wooded area around two miles from his home.

"I think our involvement in this is divine intervention. One of the open areas along the wooded line I found his clothes and shortly after that my wife found his shoes," Tony says.

Dawn adds, "It felt like God put us in the area we needed to be at the time. Once we found those clothes, it was happiness but also scary at the time. We just prayed that God would intervene here and find him."

A four-legged angel named Putnam sniffed the clothes to track Rickey's scent.

Putnam Cty Sheriff's Office K-9 handler Sgt. Emmett Merritt says, "He was down in a deep ditch embankment. He sat up and was relieved we found him."

"Going through all this it just really showed me that we can come together and really unify, at a time when we really need to come together and unify," Rickey's mother says, "and here in Palm Coast, we showed so much love for each other."

She says she looks forward to working with deputies to make sure this doesn't happen again.