An unconscious woman who has been hospitalized for four months has finally been identified by her family, solving one mystery but opening another:
Why did it take so long?
Michelle Bateman, 43 - a mother, daughter, sister and friend - went into cardiac arrest on a park bench in Kensington on Aug. 13. She never regained consciousness.
Her sister said she filed a missing person report with an officer in Kensington. But a police spokesman could not find a record of it Monday.
Her family and a friend said Monday that all their efforts - missing person reports, calls to several hospitals, jails, multiple police precincts, even the morgue - had produced nothing.
"We didn't know. That's why we were hunting for her. You still hope but you have that niggling in the back of your mind that something happened to her," said Debbie Connelly, another sister.
The first and only clue, she said, was a story about a "Jane Doe," unconscious and in a persistent vegetative state, that ran in the Inquirer over the weekend. The photos showed her sister's face and two of her three tattoos.
Social workers at the hospital had asked for the newspaper's help last week after striking out with missing person web sites, calls to hospitals, health and community centers, and a TV news report about her in September.
Michelle Bateman was born in Philadelphia and moved to Lower Bucks County as a child, the second-youngest of six. She has five children of her own, ranging in age from six to their mid-twenties, none of whom were living with her.
"We have aunts and uncles. . . . We have cousins all over the place," said another sister, Sandi Williams, who was flabbergasted that neither the hospital nor the police had been able to identify her.
"She's got a heart of gold, she never hurt a fly," she said.
It was not unusual for Bateman to be out of touch for a while, her sisters said, but they started worrying about her in early August - a week before her medical crisis.
"She would always call her mother on her birthday, Aug. 6. Even if it was a couple of days late, she would call and apologize," said Williams, who said she filed the missing-person report a week or two after that.
Lt. Ray Evers, a police department spokesman, said Monday that he was trying to determine which officer she had spoken with and would not characterize what had happened until knowing more about the conversation. He could find no record of a missing person's report.
On the evening of Aug. 13, firefighters and paramedics responding to a 911 call found a woman in cardiac arrest in a park at the corner of Kensington Avenue and Tioga Street.
They tried to resuscitate her and took her to the emergency room at Aria Health's Frankford campus, where a heartbeat was restored after 45 minutes. She was transferred a few hours later to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where she has been unresponsive ever since.
With no known identity, no social security number - and no health insurance - the hospital has been absorbing the cost of her care while trying to find out who she is, a spokesman said.
The only identifying marks, which yielded nothing until they appeared in the newspaper, were three tattoos: "Bruce," in a ribbon surrounded by a red heart; and two that appear homemade, "David" and "Dave."
"I have been trying to find this girl for four months," said an ex-boyfriend named Bruce, adding that he had called police precincts, talked to people in the neighborhood and even phoned the morgue.
He also called several hospitals nearby. He did not consider Penn, in West Philadelphia.
On Saturday, Bruce saw his ex-girlfriend's picture in the Inquirer.
"I thought about it all day long," he said, knowing that the family would be in shock. "I got another paper and I took it to her daughter and I showed it to her."
Bateman's mother, who brought legal documents to the hospital to confirm her identity on Monday, declined to reveal her daughter's identity or speak with the media.
"We have been looking for her and we have been overwhelmed trying to find her. Knowing where she is and knowing that she is OK is enough . . . that is most important to us," she said in a statement released by the hospital.
Some of Bateman's siblings want more.
"We want an explanation," said Connelly, for why it took four months to locate the family.
Connelly remembered the times that her sister - nicknamed Mouse, for her squeaky voice as a baby - repeatedly read Peter Rabbit to her daughter when she was around 4 years old.
"Michelle could recite the book from memory," Connelly said, choking back tears, and her daughter "would act out the parts of the book.
"I think that's my favorite memory of Mouse because she was a really good mom. . . . We miss her and we love her."
Staff writer Allison Steele contributed to this article.
Contact staff writer Don Sapatkin at 215-854-2617 or email@example.com.