Miracle man was dead for an hour

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It’s a simple Instagram post that hides a miracle: “Abby and I both graduated from Christian High School!”

Big deal, you might think. But John Smith, the man in the photo with his wife and young son (above), died seven years earlier.

And, in a recovery doctors still can’t explain, his 60 minutes without a pulse left him with no side effects.

Cue Hollywood, and the film Breakthrough, which captures the should-have-been tragedy.

Marcel Ruiz stars as John and Chrissy Metz plays his mum, Joyce, who was praying over him when his heart restarted after an hour. They were the prayers of a desperate, grieving mum with one last hope.

“After I entered his room, I put my hands on his feet, and they were cold and grey, and I just knew he was gone,” Joyce told The Gospel Herald. “I began praying out loud, begging God for my son’s life, and calling on the Holy Spirit, saying, ‘Please give me back my son.’”

Even Hollywood couldn’t make the next bit more dramatic.

“The nurse had her finger on John’s pulse for 27 minutes, and had gotten nothing,” Joyce said. “She told me, ‘The minute you prayed, something moved up John’s body with such force, it pushed me back – and suddenly, I got a pulse.’ They were stunned.”

Stunned, yes, but wary.

“The doctor told me, ‘Even if John lives, he’ll be a vegetable. There’s brain damage, and the only brain function is brain stem function and it’s very rudimentary’,” said Joyce. 

“I told him, ‘Do your best; God will do the rest. But I want no negatives to be spoken around him. When you are in the room, I only want him to hear positive things.’”

John was speaking two days later and, 16 days after being clinically dead for so long, walked out of hospital carrying a basketball.

“To this day, John has not had any side effects from the accident, despite doctors’ predictions,” Joyce said. “God has completely healed him.”

She captured the story by writing a book, The Impossible, which led to the screen version which recreates the dramatic moment of John’s accident. 

The 14-year-old was with friends Josh Sander and Josh Rieger “messing around” on the ice of Missouri’s Lake Sainte Louise. The ice cracked, plunging the three teenagers into the 40-degree water.

John can recall little of the incident, but accounts tell of the ice cracking 50 feet from a dock and a desperate struggle by all three to clamber ashore.

His two friends made it, but John was under the water for 15 minutes. Rescuers dived in, but were unable to find him. 

As they were about to give up, diver Tommy Shine heard a voice telling him to go back. Thinking it was his chief, he tried again, finding John and managing to lift him to the surface.

Despite that, there was little hope after so long submerged.

What followed is an inexplicable story with the power to transform lives, including that of John, who now wants to be a pastor. The Instagram graduation photo shows he’s on the way to achieving that, and he’s hopeful his second chance at life will have a wider impact.

He said: “My family isn’t publicising this story for our benefit. We’re doing this because our country needs hope.

“We’re not the answer – God’s the answer. We’re just sharing the story so this country will see how great our God is. He’s not dead, he’s alive, and he’s still in the miracle-working business.”

From New Life Newspaper issue 354

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