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New Iberia woman who went missing a year ago tells story, thanks rescuers

Posted at 10:20 PM, Nov 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-18 23:55:34-05

In November 2017, Jana Baldwin went missing in the rainy, 30-degree weather. All she was wearing was an undershirt and pajama pants.

To this day she still has no idea how she left or what happened.

“I don’t remember. It’s just blank,” said Baldwin.

She suffered from a brain injury when a drunk driver crashed into her more about 20 years ago. Then, years later, she had seizures as a result and injured her head even more.

“[On the day I went missing] they had me on a bunch of medicines and I was all loopy and crazy. And then they hooked some kind of machine up to my head for my seizures,” said Baldwin.

That’s the last thing she remembered before waking up in the hospital.

Her injuries caused concern and worry among her family. It also gave those who were searching for her even more urgency to locate her.

Rescuers said Baldwin walked nearly 11 miles over the course of those 3 days, until they ultimately found her less than a mile from her home.

“It’s extremely rare for us to find somebody, especially after three days and the weather conditions that we had,” said Toney Wade, the commander for Cajun Coast Search & Rescue, who led the mission.

Baldwin and Wade have kept in touch over the course of the past year.

“She’s probably the only person that we’ve ever found that has stayed in touch with us. She’s actually come to a few of our trainings. It’s just nice to have that connection and be able to talk to her. It keeps us going because it’s something we can look back on as a success,” said Wade.

Baldwin and KATC’s Dannielle Garcia drove over to the wooded area where she was found. It’s the first time she’s been back since.

“I’ve been too nervous to go back,” she said as they drove over.

When she was found last year, she was suffering from hypothermia and hundreds of insect bites.

“All I could remember seeing was a big white light, which was a flashlight. And they kept asking me what’s my name and I just kept repeating myself, ‘Jana Baldwin, Jana Baldwin, Jana Baldwin.'”

Doctors said she would not have made it had they found her any later.

Recovery has been difficult for her, even causing nightmares.

But Baldwin said it’s gotten easier with her family by her side.

“It’s a lot of emotions because I still don’t know what happened. But just the thought that I went missing and I was gone for three days and two nights in the woods, and I survived it. I’m a survivor. I made it and I’m alive and I’m here today,” she said, as she wiped away her tears.

Baldwin’s family said when all other law enforcement gave up on the search, Cajun Coast Search & Rescue insisted on finding her.

“You know because everyone else had given up on her, they thought she arranged a ride and was hiding out somewhere. When her family contacted us, their story just didn’t seem like she would do that. And that’s why we went out and once we found evidence that she was out there, then it just drove us hard. We wanted to get her back,” said Wade.

Baldwin said she is thankful to the search and rescue group for bringing her back to her two sons.

“[Cajun Coast Search & Rescue] will always be in my life, I hope. Because they saved me. I’m forever grateful for them because a lot of people were giving up. I’m glad they didn’t give up on me. I’m glad I had all of the prayers and to the people that wouldn’t quit,” she said.