Missouri Teen Submerged in Icy Lake for 15 Minutes Makes 'Miracle' Recovery
By Jeremy Reynalds, Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, firstname.lastname@example.org
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI (ANS – Feb. 15 2015) -- Fourteen-year-old John Smith had lost his battle for life.
According to a story by Dan Van Veen for PE News (Assemblies of God),
he was no longer struggling to keep his desperate grip on the edge of
the ice or flailing his arms in a final and terrifying attempt to stay
the past 15 minutes his lungs had been filled with raw lake water, his
heart had stopped beating, and he lay motionless at the bottom of Lake
Sainte Louise. John Smith was dead.
For many St. Louis-area children, Jan. 19 2015, was a day off from school in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
But for John Smith, what had begun as a fun day off from school with
friends, Josh and his sister Jamie Rieger, and Josh Sander, quickly
PE News said the weather had turned unseasonably warm, and although
warned to stay off the ice, the three boys ventured out onto frozen Lake
Sainte Louise, located about 40 miles west of St. Louis.
Probably unknown to them, the farther they got from shore, the thinner the ice became.
John and Josh Sander were about 150 feet from shore when suddenly
John fell through the ice. Josh Sander tried to grab John’s hand, but
the ice broke under him. Josh Rieger then tried lying on his stomach to
reach out to his friends, but the ice also gave way under him as well.
Jamie was watching from the shore. PE News said that John called out to her to call 911 because “he didn’t want to die.”
When members of the Lake Saint Louis Fire and Water Rescue arrived
soon after, they saw Josh Sander pulling himself from the water and Josh
Rieger clinging to the ice. John had already gone under. They rescued
Rieger, and learned that John was somewhere underneath the ice.
Jason Noble, pastor of First Assembly Church in St. Peters, Missouri
(a suburb of St. Louis), said Brian and Joyce Smith, John’s parents,
have been committed members of the church for 21 years, with John
attending with them.
As Wentzville firefighter Tommy Shine probed the water with a
recovery pole hoping to find John’s body, Noble said that Shine felt
like someone told him to “move two steps to the left” as if he were
guided. He did and immediately encountered John.
The pole’s hook snagged John’s clothing and Shine pulled John’s lifeless body to the surface.
“That was one of the first of many miracles to follow,” PE News reported Noble had said.
“Another miracle was this crew had just practiced cold water rescues the week before, so they were well prepared for this.”
Joyce says that John had spent the night at his friend’s house, and she had spoken to him by phone at 11:27 that morning.
At 11:55 she received a call from the boy’s mother telling her what
happened to John, that he had no pulse, and was on the way to the
The ambulance transported John to St. Joseph Hospital West in the
city of Lake St. Louis, where Dr. Kent Sutterer was the doctor on call.
Sutterer’s daughter is in the same eighth grade class with John.
Sutterer admitted that at the time of John’s arrival, his expectations
were at best, grim.
After performing CPR on John for 27 minutes, and John having been
lifeless for about 45 minutes, Sutterer called John’s mother into the
room, ready to record the time of death.
It was time to accept that John was gone.
“When the doctor called Joyce into the room, she immediately started
praying,” Noble said. “She was calling on the Holy Spirit to save her
son, that she didn’t want to lose him.”
“I didn’t realize at the time they were getting ready to call the
time of death,” said Joyce. “I just knew we were in dire need of God.
The doctor said I could touch John, so I walked up to his bed, grabbed
his feet and started praying that God would send His Holy Spirit to
raise him up and heal him. Within moments of praying, they got a pulse.”
Joyce said John’s room was packed with people, with a large young man
giving John CPR when she entered. When John’s heart began beating
again, Joyce says there was no mistaking the surprise on everyone’s
faces. A flurry of action ensued.
PE News said Sutterer wrote a note immediately following the
experience. He said that despite having done everything, he knew nothing
“All the resources of this world were being thrust upon this young
man with no indication except the cold reality of a young life snuffed
out before our very eyes. But the interventions of modern medicine are
not what John’s mother was counting on. Spiritual warfare is what she
called this. No sooner did John's
mother call on the Holy Spirit to
bring her son back to her than the monitor started that rhythmic beat, a
pulse could be felt in his groin and his carotid artery.”
Sutterer said he doesn’t know whether John will ever be the same as
he was before falling through the ice. But he said he also knows that
God can do amazing things.
PE News said he continued, “I know that God has given us a gift, even
if it is only for a few days. I was privileged to witness a miracle. I
was preparing myself to give a mother the final bad news that her son
was gone from this world. She had more faith in God than I did. She
called on God, and God brought him back. The Holy Spirit came in that
room (and) started that boy’s heart once again.”
It was a miracle, but God was far from done.
With his heart now beating, John was quickly transported to Cardinal
Glennon Children's Medical Center in St. Louis. The doctor on staff was
Jeremy Garrett; an expert in dealing with water accident victims.
After examining John, Garrett called the family in. Joyce asked for the bottom line.
“He told us John only had brain stem activity, his lungs were full of
acid and if he does live, he would be a vegetable,” Joyce recalled.
When Garrett asked about “do not resuscitate” paperwork, PE News said
Joyce responded, “I understand you’re the best; do the best of your
ability. The rest is up to God.”
Noble said, “We (five other pastors and John’s parents) went to
John’s room and started praying. John was totally unresponsive. We
prayed for about 10 minutes, and then I saw two angels appear, like
guardians. The moment I saw them, John suddenly squeezed my hand and
opened his eyes; another miracle”
Noble said John quickly closed his eyes and fell asleep. The group
renewed its prayer efforts, praying specifically that God would fill
John’s lungs with new breath, and for his brain to be restored.
“I was praying up by John’s head, whispering into his ear,” Noble
said, “when suddenly I saw thousands of whirling, colorful lights around
John’s head, like rewiring John’s brain. I told the others in the room
what I was seeing, but they couldn’t see it. And then John sat up in his
bed, eyes wide open, and grabbed my hand.”
Noble sat and prayed by John’s bed from 8 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. for the
first week of his recovery. He said that when the doctors tested John’s
lungs, expecting to find intense infection due to the intake of raw,
dirty lake water, the test came back as sterile.
“His lungs were cleaner than yours or mine,” PE News reported Noble
said, saying this was evidence of another miracle God performed.
Joyce added an important insight that Garrett told her. He has X-rays and tests verifying his statement.
The acidosis in John’s lungs was originally measured at a 6.6 pH
level. Normal is between 7.35 and 7.45. The lowest limit for a person is
6.8; below that, they die. It was another reason John shouldn’t be
alive, but he was.
The next day, John, who was on a ventilator, began responding to
Garrett’s questions, correctly indicating with his hands answers to
questions about his two favorite basketball players - Michael Jordan and
day John made huge improvements,” PE News reported Noble said. He
added, “In a little over a week, he was taken off the ventilator and he
was able to start talking. And now, after just 16 days (February 4), he
walked out of the hospital - totally recovered. He even visited his
school to thank all those praying for him, and to pick up his homework.”
Garrett, who didn’t expectation John to recover, expressed shock and
called this kind of recovery a bona fide miracle. When questioned about
the lake water allowing John to survive, Noble said the doctor clarified
that the water was too warm (40 degrees) and John was too big for this
kind of recovery to be explained as anything but a miracle.
But the miracles didn’t stop with John. Jackson, a young boy in the
room next to John’s, was paralyzed, head to toe, having been
hospitalized with the flu and then a serious infection for two weeks.
His parents were desperate. Having heard of the amazing things happening
with John, they sought Joyce out.
“They saw all the people in the waiting room praying for John, and
they went to Joyce and begged her to pray for their son,” PE News
reported Noble said. “They all started praying for him. By that night,
the boy was sitting up in his bed, singing songs. Now the paralysis is
totally gone, and they expect him to go home in less than a week.”
The impact of the miracle in John’s life also spread to his school,
which posted regularly about his recovery and prayers for him.
Nancy Benes, principal at Living Word Christian Middle School, said
that following John’s miraculous survival, an evangelist spoke at their
Thursday morning chapel.
“He gave a strong salvation message,” Benes said, “and about 100
children made salvation decisions or rededicated their lives to Christ.
And I know at least some of those decisions were related to John’s
experience, because I asked them.”
But children weren’t the only ones to respond. Benes said they had
visitors attending that chapel, and a parent as well as one of their
kitchen workers also raised their hands to accept Christ.
PE News said Noble added that this seems to be the third time God has
stepped in to give John new life. The first was when the Smiths adopted
him from a Guatemalan orphanage when he was just five months old; the
next being his decision to accept Christ, and Jan. 19 being the third.
“And now it’s awesome to see the ripple effect of God’s miraculous work in John’s life,” Noble said.
Benes said that churches and the school have been doing their best to help the Smith family
during this time.
However, they aren’t about to let this miracle fade away. T-shirts
that say “Ask Me about John Smith” have been printed, and sold at cost
to provide opportunities to share about the miracle God performed.
Joyce said she’s had numerous contacts from people across the
country, and even around the world, telling her how John’s story has
bolstered or renewed their faith.
John, who is now home, has personally seen God work in others’ lives.
PE News said he texted an atheist friend of the family who lives in
Germany about the miracles he experienced in his life.
“Nico” replied,“For the first time I have prayed to God. I have chicken skin (goose bumps).”
Noble said it all has to do with prayer.
From the prayers of parents, friends and classmates to the hundreds
who gathered to pray for John at church and the waiting room, it was all
about God answering prayer.
“This just shows that God is still doing great things in St. Louis,”
he said. “I believe God is raising up a generation and showing His might
to them so they will trust and proclaim Him as God,” Joyce said.
She added, “God also wants us to know that He care for us. The word
that God is speaking right now is, when you seek my face and come to me,
I will do great and marvelous things for you.”
1) John Smith in the hospital
2) John Smith today (Photo: USA Today)