Teen who fell in icy pond makes 'miraculous' recovery

A 14-year old St. Charles boy who spent 15 minutes underwater after falling through the ice of Lake Ste. Louise has made a recovery no one can explain.

A 14-year old St. Charles boy who spent 15 minutes under water after falling through the ice of Lake Ste. Louise has made a recovery no one can explain.

It's a recovery so complete, our Kay Quinn spoke on-camera to young John Smith about his near-drowning, and his amazing story of survival.

Three 14-year-old boys fell through the ice on Martin Luther King Day.

When rescuers arrived, one was almost out of the water, another was holding onto the ice and one couldn't be found.

Eighth grader John Smith is doing something doctors never believed would be possible.

"I don't remember much about it to be honest, but I do remember the tubes," says Smith.

He is walking and talking, here with his pastor Jason Noble by his side. And trying to make sense of how he's not just alive, but thriving after being under water for 15 minutes.

"After listening to what the paramedics and doctors said I'm pretty surprised at the outcome," says John.

An outcome some say fits in with all of the other miracles that day and in the days that followed.

Like the fact Lake St. Louis Fire and Emergency crews had just practiced ice rescues the week before they pulled John out.

And the doctor who was on duty in the emergency room at SSM St. Joseph Hospital West the day of the accident: Dr. Kent Sutterer, whose daughter's in the same class with John at Living Word Christian School.

"In my mind this is a very grim, very poor chance of survival already," says Dr. Sutterer of the moment John came in.

Dr. Sutterer and his team performed CPR on John for 27 minutes with no success. The question was raised: how long should they continue?

"He was dead for 45 minutes," says Dr. Sutterer.

What happened next defies explanation. Dr. Sutterer called John's mother into the room to give her the news.

"She started praying loudly," says Dr. Sutterer.

"I don't remember what all I said," recalls John's mother, Joyce Smith. "But I remember, 'Holy God, please send your Holy Spirit to save my son. I want my son, please save him.' And they hadn't been getting a pulse at that time, so all of a sudden I heard them saying, 'We got a pulse, we got a pulse.'"

"Within a matter of a minute or two, his heart started again," says Dr. Sutterer.

It's an experience that's shaken many of those in the emergency room that day. This veteran of responding to medical crisis wrote a letter about it as a way to cope.

"His heart was jump started by the Holy Spirit listening to the request of his praying mother," reads Dr. Sutterer, from the letter he wrote.

Dr. Jeremy Garrett who oversaw John's recovery even goes a step further. "It's a bonafide miracle."

John was airlifted to SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center about two hours after the accident. Dr. Garrett says he knew within about the first 16 hours after John's arrival that his body would physically survive the ordeal what he didn't know was how much brain function he would have.

Dr. Garrett watched John's body react to being under water so long: his circulatory system went into shock, acid built up in his bloodstream.

But within 48 hours, family members reported things he didn't expect. Like John opening his eyes.

Then, relatives told him this teen who loves to play and watch basketball was responding to questions about his two favorite players.

"So I did a very interesting neurologic exam," says Dr. Garrett. "We said, well John, pretend your left hand is Lebron James and your right hand is Michael Jordan, then asked him a series of questions and he got them all right. It's truly amazing."

What's happened since then has been a dizzying rate of continuous recovery. One even doctors are trying to keep up with.

"To watch your son sit up and amaze the doctors, the neurologist comes in and says, we don't know what to do next because we've never seen this before," says Joyce.

While we were visiting, John's rescuers from the Lake St. Louis fire department showed up, bringing lunch. Seeing for themselves, the boy who survived 15 minutes under the ice.

"I know it doesn't fit into our neat little box of today," says John's father, Brian Smith of this miracle, "but again, you can't refute the clinical evidence."

And while these parents haven't spoken of his impulsive decision to walk out on the ice that day with two friends, they know their son has learned more than any lecture could teach him.

"I'm surprised I'm alive but it's a real miracle that I'm alive, and I thank God I'm alive, and there's a reason I'm alive, so I'm just going to kind of follow what God has in store for me throughout my life," says John.

John still has a cough, and he's getting physical therapy to help him regain some of the movement in his hands.

But he could go home by the end of the week.


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