Miracle of boy who fell in frozen lake, died for hour, then ‘came back to life’

John Smith was dead for an hour after falling into a frozen lake, but made a full recovery in a case that even doctors have described as a "bonafide miracle".

The incredible true story has been made into a movie called Breakthrough, starring This is Us' Chrissy Metz, Topher Grace, and Marcel Ruiz.

John's amazing story begins on a cold Monday in January 2015, when he walked out on to a frozen lake in St Charles, Missouri.

The friends were off school for the day and were "messing around" taking photos when the thin ice cracked, plunging them into the freezing lake below.

"In the moment, we all knew that the possibility of the three of us dying was very real," John said.

While John's two friends managed to climb out, he didn't. His screams of "I don't want t die" could be heard from the lake dock.

When rescue diver, Tommy Shine, found him he was already dead. He was under for more than 20 minutes, completely submerged for 15.

The first responders retrieved John, who was 14 at the time, from the lake and worked on him by the lake edge in a bid to find a pulse.

EMTs transported him to St. Joseph West Hospital where the emergency medical team worked on him, trying to get some response for more than forty minutes. They were unable to get a pulse, heartbeat, or breath.

John's body temperature registered 88F so the team tried to warm his body, hoping that would shock his system into responding.

When that didn’t work, and John’s body temperature had raised, Dr. Kent Sutterer determined there was nothing else they could do. Before he called time of death, he was told Joyce, John’s adoptive mother, had arrived.

The doctor decided to let her have the opportunity to see her son and say a final goodbye, allowing her to think John was “alive” rather than dead. He would call time of death later.

"It's the one phone call every parent dreads," Joyce told the Gospel Herald.

Joyce and Brian Smith had adopted John from Guatemala when he was five months old.

Brian had been volunteering in the country building schools when he asked his wife to think about adopting. The pair had grown children but welcomed John with open arms, he was their son.

Joyce said later she didn't remember driving to the hospital.

She approached and saw the lifeless, grey body, she felt how cold his feet were.

"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 said.

When she was invited to John’s bedside, she realised things were worse than she’d suspected. She recalled scripture she'd heard in church all her life that says the Holy Spirit will raise Jesus from the dead.

With nothing to lose, thinking she was speaking quietly, but actually talking loud enough for the entire ER to hear, she prayed the words: “I believe in a God who can do miracles! Holy Spirit, I need you right now to come and breathe life back into my son.”

As Joyce prayed over her son, in that very instant, the heart monitor sprang to life.

John was alive.

"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," she added.

A nurse told her: "The minute you prayed, something moved up John's body with such force, it pushed me back – and suddenly, I got a pulse."

The family's pastor, Jason Noble, turned up at the hospital soon after and joined Joyce praying.

"The doctors said that there was a one percent chance that he would make it overnight. If he did that he would be a vegetable for the rest of his life," he told Fox News .

He was airlifted to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center in St. Louis, Missouri, where they didn’t believe he’d live through the night.

The attending paediatric critical care physician, Dr. Jeremy Garrett, who is also a world-renowned hypothermia and drowning expert, determined that if John did survive, he would be so neurologically impaired that he would never be able to regain any normalcy to his life.

Sixteen days later John proved them all wrong as he walked out of Cardinal Glennon completely healed – with no trace of neurological or physical damage other than scars on his body from trying to escape from the icy water.

His case stunned doctors and medical experts and led to his family to credit his full recovery to the power of prayer.

John’s case is now studied in medical schools because the medical community has stated there is no way this boy should have survived, but that he is completely restored to what he was before the accident is unheard of.

"It's a bonafide miracle," Dr Garrett said.

Joyce and author Ginger Kolbaba wrote about their experience in the book The Impossible, which was adapted for the new movie and re-released with the title Breakthrough.

Four years later, John remembers nothing of the incident but has no permanent damage.

The teen wasn't a Christian before the incident, though his adopted family were deeply religious, but says he is now.

"I'm truly excited to see where [God] is going to take me," he said.

He plans to attend a Christian college, carrying on coaching youth basketball and live as normal a life as a teen can.

Joyce has already seen the movie and is pleased with the adaptation and warns "bring your Kleenexes."

Breakthrough is released in cinemas on April 17.

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