One of the greatest fears for parents is definitely the case of a missing child. Who would take care of their child? What would make the situation more distressing would be if the child has special needs.
People who go missing with special needs and mental disabilities, including dementia, may have problems communicating their circumstances to others.
This very scenario happened to Kate Byrum-Kocurek and her husband, Brandon in December last year. Micah, their 17-year-old son with special needs, was last seen at the family’s River Oaks apartment in Westheimer, Houston on December 10.
Kate recalled her last conversation with her son: “I was just telling him you have to do your chores. You have to get along with your siblings.” Micah then went out for a walk at around 10 pm, and then disappeared.
Within 15 minutes, Kate and her husband started looking for Micah. She said, “I looked both ways and across the street. I thought we would walk this way because this is the way we walk his little sister to school.
He left his phone, he left his shoes, he left in exactly what he was wearing. Black basketball shorts with red accents and a navy t-shirt.”
Alerted to his disappearance, family, friends, and the whole community began searching frantically for the teen.
Kate and Brandon, and Micah’s four siblings posted signs, looked for clues on surveillance videos, and checked his online gaming chatrooms for information.
Houston Police, the Texas Center for the Missing, Texas EquuSearch, and plenty of people online shared flyers and called nearby businesses, hospitals, and shelters, all hoping to find Micah, who had multiple learning disabilities.
The family was fairly new to Houston, having just moved from Texas City in June so Kate could be closer to her cancer treatments.
“I have stage 4 neuroendocrine cancer, and it is spreading. It’s already in my liver,” she said. What worried Kate was that Micah could have easily gotten lost since he was still unfamiliar with the area.
She shared, “I’m concerned that he may be lost. He’s dyslexic and dysgraphic. I want my boy home. I don’t care about missing appointments; I don’t care about anything. I just want my boy home.”
About three weeks into the search, Kate received a photo and text that gave them hope. The picture showed a young man on the street, holding up a sign and asking for food.
She said, “Someone on the neighborhood app had been following our posts, and he just texted me. He’s like I don’t think that’s him, and I was like, that’s him! That’s my son!”
Following the information, Kate and Brandon immediately rushed to the area, which was just five miles away in southeast Houston. There they miraculously found Micah, safe and sound.
On the day that Micah disappeared, a homeless couple took him in. Despite their own difficulties, they kindly took Micah the teen under their wing, even during the arctic freeze.
Kate said, “That couple had been feeding him and taking care of him. They don’t have electricity or anything, and they don’t have social media, so they didn’t know that he was being looked for. They fed him every day. The lady was taking his clothes and washing them. They found him warmer clothes. He’s in really good condition. Those people, they’re his angels. They’re my angels.”
The couple has asked to keep their identities and location confidential.
More importantly, Micah was found safe just three days before his 18th birthday on December 28. His case would have changed drastically if he remained missing after turning 18.
According to Kate, “Once they turn 18, you lose your ability as a parent to be able to obtain certain information, or to have much input. Because they say, well, he’s an adult.”
After three weeks away, Micah was just as happy to be back home. He said, “I hope that we can find more people, because I know there’s a lot of other kids that went missing that aren’t as lucky as I am to get found.”
Kate stopped undergoing cancer treatment when Micah went missing to search for her son. She can now continue her treatments and focus on her health now that Micah is back home and safe.
Kate remains grateful for the homeless couple who selflessly cared for Micah. She urged other parents to make sure that their children, whether they had special needs or not, memorize cell phone numbers and other contact information, and home addresses.
This can help other families avoid the same situation and increase the chances of children finding their way back home.
Check out Micah’s story below: