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'God wanted me to live': Missouri teen's 'miracle' recovery after underwater for 15 minutes

by Elizabeth Murray / / Source: TODAY

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A 14-year-old Missouri boy who fell through an icy lake and was underwater for 15 minutes, with no pulse for nearly 45 minutes, has made a "miraculous" recovery, doctors said. Now, John Smith says he's fortunate to be alive.

"There's no really any explanation but how God wanted me to live for a reason so i'm alive now," John told TODAY.

The eighth-grader was walking over an ice-covered Lake St. Louise with two friends when the trio fell through the ice. While one of the teens was able to swim back to shore, and another clung to the ice, John fell through the water and was submerged for more than 15 minutes before paramedics arrived.

First responders conducted CPR for 15 minutes before doctors at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital continued for another 27 minutes, NBC affiliate KSDK reported. After John didn’t have a heartbeat for 45 minutes, doctors said they called his mom, Joyce, so she could say goodbye.

"He was gone," said Dr. Nancy Bauer, who treated John at the Missouri hospital. "I've never felt someone so cold in my life."

As doctors were telling Joyce in the trauma room about the condition of her son, the distraught mom said she started praying.

"A few seconds later, we had a heartbeat," Bauer said. "It gave me goosebumps."

The next morning, John opened his eyes. Nurse Wendy Hoff described the story as "a miracle." "I remember everybody just kind of started crying," she said.

But even after John woke up, doctors weren't immediately sure that he would be the same. John had been without oxygen for much longer than the time it takes to cause major brain damage. Within 48 hours of regaining a heartbeat, doctors say, John opened his eyes. And they decided to test the young basketball player.

"We said, 'John, pretend your left hand is Lebron James and your right hand is Michael Jordan,'" Dr. Jeremy Garrett said, adding that the teen also correctly answered a series of questions, indicating that his brain functions would return to normal. "It's really amazing," Garrett said.

But doctors say John still has a way to go before he's fully back to normal. He has a persisting cough and must undergo physical therapy to regain movement in his hands.

Still, he said, "I'm thankful that I'm alive now."

This article was originally published Feb. 7, 2015 at 9:54 a.m.

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