SEATTLE — With a mixture of anger and elation, tears and smiles, Tom Rider spoke Friday of his wife’s struggle to survive eight days trapped in a wrecked vehicle without food and water, while he begged authorities to search for her.
“I have nothing against the police officers that found her,” Rider said. “The policy that tied their hands nearly cost my wife her life.”
Tanya Rider, 33, was found alive but dehydrated at the bottom of a steep ravine in suburban Maple Valley on Thursday, more than a week after she failed to return home from work.
Her brain function is normal, she can move her arms and legs and her physician said she is hopeful they will be able to remove the ventilator that is helping her breathe within a few days.
Dr. Lisa McIntyre told a hospital news conference Friday that while Rider was doing better, she’s “not out of the woods yet.”
“It’s too early to say which direction she is going to go,” she added.
McIntyre said Rider’s biggest challenge remains her kidney function, but her lungs and blood pressure have improved since she was brought to Harborview Medical Center.
Rider’s kidneys failed because of toxins from a muscle injury in the crash and dehydration. She was being treated with intravenous fluids, the doctor said.
Rider broke her collar bone and dislocated her shoulder in the accident and has pressure sores from the days of being held by the seat belt, probably upside down, the doctor said. Her caregivers were not yet sure the extent of a leg injury but McIntyre said they were hopeful it would not have to be amputated.
She said Rider was probably alive because she was young and healthy and was wearing a seat belt.
“She’s not the most unusual or exceptional case I’ve taken care of, but certainly surviving eight days without care is quite a feat,” said McIntyre, who has worked as a general surgeon, specializing in trauma surgery and critical care, at Harborview for 10 years.
Tom Rider told the news conference of his frustration at battling police missing person policies he says allowed his wife to suffer while keeping officers from searching for her.
“Any policy that restricts officers from saving a life is a wrong policy,” he said. “No one else should have to go through what she went through.”
He said he was told that under the King County sheriff’s office policy on missing persons, his wife’s disappearance would not be considered for investigation unless she was a minor, was suicidal or suffered from dementia.
Rider said he was relentless in his pestering of authorities. Since the morning of Sept. 22, he had been asking the sheriff’s office to use cell phone technology to find her — something the movie fan had seen in a police drama on TV.
Authorities found the Maple Valley woman after detecting the general location of her cell phone Thursday morning, then searching along Highway 169 near Renton, southeast of Seattle, the route she took home from work. They noticed some matted brush, and below it found Rider’s vehicle, smashed on its side, State Patrol spokesman Jeff Merrill said.
Tanya Rider left work at a Fred Meyer grocery store in Bellevue on Sept. 19 but never made it home.