The family of Irene Paquet was prepared for the worst and say it’s truly a miracle that she’s alive and recovering in hospital.  The 67-year-old woman was found disoriented, weak and dehydrated about two kilometres from her vehicle in the woods near Copper Canyon, in Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley.

“It’s just been kind of surreal, this whole thing,” said Paquet’s daughter, Celeste. “Obviously we were anticipating a different outcome.”

Irene Paquet hadn’t been seen or heard from since she left the Cowichan Neighbourhood House on July 29, where she’s a volunteer.

Family and police are still trying to piece together what happened to the woman between then and when she was found five days later, lying near an embankment on an abandoned logging road.

Paquet says her mother, who suffers from various health issues, doesn’t have a clear memory of what happened.

She suspects her mom, who moved from Brampton, Ont., the year before to be closer to her grandchildren and still doesn’t know her way around, likely got lost.

Car found in ditch

RCMP say a few days into her disappearance, a motorcyclist discovered her mother’s car in a ditch about 40 kilometres west of Chemainus.

Search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched, along with an RCMP helicopter and a police services dog named Boomer.

RCMP say five hours later Boomer and his handler found the woman lying near the embankment, in “obvious discomfort and barely able to speak.”

Celeste Paquet says her mother had groceries in her car and may have sustained herself that way.

She says Irene Paquet is still in hospital but is “definitely doing better.”

“We’re extremely amazed at her ability and strength. Now, we just have to look towards the future and help her recover,” she said, adding that she is grateful to all those who helped find her mother.