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Lt. Karen Stephens

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Jim Meade

Real Name: Karen "Betty" Stephens Nelson
Case: Lost Friend
Location: Vietnam
Date: 1967


Details: In 1965, eighteen-year-old James "Jim" Meade Jr., put his college plans on hold to fight in Vietnam. He became an Army helicopter pilot in the winter of 1967. Jim served in Vietnam for only three months; he transported troops to and from combat missions. He was shot down twice, but each time he returned. On May 8, 1967, Jim was shot down for the third time; this time, he would not be able to go back. The next day, his parents received a vague telegram which stated that he had been placed on the "seriously ill" list due to a fractured skull. He was transferred to Madigan General Hospital in Tacoma, Washington. His parents and siblings waited in the hospital lobby; they had no idea how seriously hurt Jim might be. Jim's father and two of his brothers decided to walk around the halls looking for him. They found a soldier severely injured and wrapped almost completely in bandages. They soon were told that the soldier was Jim. For awhile, Jim was in a coma; the helicopter rotor blade had fractured his skull. He was only able to make animal-like sounds and could only flail his arms and legs around. The doctors feared that he would never recover.
As a last resort, Jim was assigned to a ward with amputees that had served in Vietnam. Doctors asked the men to talk to Jim, in hopes that this would help bring him out of his coma. After ten weeks in a coma, Jim awoke, but he had forgotten the first nineteen years of his life. He was also unable to talk or walk. However, he began to recover with the help of an army physical therapist named Lt. Betty Stephens. Lt. Stephens started by teaching Jim how to crawl on mats. One day, after falling on his face several times, some basic trainees that were in physical therapy began to laugh at Jim. Lt. Stephens immediately went over, yelled at them, and kicked them out of the room.
Often times, Jim would be in too much pain to go to physical therapy. Lt. Stephens would still go to visit him and see how he was doing. One night, she told him not to give up; she said that he was going to get better as long as they kept exercising and working through Jim's hardships. Jim feels that she gave him the encouragement to improve and regain all of his skills. Eventually, Lt. Stephens had Jim go home with his parents so that he could improve in his home environment. Even at home, Jim remembers trying to learn more skills so that he could show Lt. Stephens how much he improved.
One year after the two met, Lt. Stephens and Jim had to say goodbye; she was leaving the Army. She never saw Jim walk on his own, and had no idea that she had sent him on the road to recovery. Thanks to Lt. Stephens, Jim was able to regain all of his motor skills and abilities. He is now a successful clinical psychologist living and working in San Diego, California; he would like to find Lt. Stephens and thank her for everything that she did to help him recover.

Jim and Karen Stephens

Jim and Karen reunited

Extra Notes: This case first aired on the September 20, 1989 episode.
Results: Solved. Karen Stephens Nelson was watching the broadcast, recognized Jim, and contacted the telecenter. Karen lives just thirty miles from Jim and was surprised to learn that he was looking for her. On September 25, 1989, she and Jim were reunited at Jim's home. Jim was finally able to thank her for everything she did for him. Karen was overjoyed to reunite with Jim and see how much he had improved in the past twenty years.
Links: None

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