Nathan Woessner, the 6-year-old grandson of a Galva couple who was buried alive in a sand dune sinkhole on July 12, was removed from a ventilator yesterday.
Nathan is a Sterling, Ill. boy who is the grandson of Don and Renee Reul of Galva.
Mr. Reul is pastor of First Baptist Church, Galva. He has been the spokesperson for the family in news outlets worldwide since Nathan was buried 11 feet under ground for over three hours after being swallowed by a sink hole while playing at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore near Michigan City, Ind. last Friday.
Dr. Tracy Koogler of University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital initially compared Nathan to "a sick pneumonia patient" and said his prognosis was cautiously good. Nathan was induced into a coma and intentionally paralyzed after arriving at the Chicago hospital on Friday night, due to many tubes connected to him, including the ventilator
On Wednesday, the family was excited to see the ventilator removed from Nathan. He was awakened, sat up in bed and watched TV. His voice was weak, but he could converse.
"They're pretty amazed at how he's bounced back," said Steve Konstanty, a First Baptist Church member after talking with Don Reul by phone Wednesday. "He's trying to act like a normal kid."
Konstanty said that doctors expect Nathan to remain in the hospital for perhaps a week. He'll then go to a rehab facility for about a month, presumably for respiratory issues.
Nathan's expected to eventually lead a normal life.
"The prognosis is good," Konstanty said.
Authorities believe an air pocket caused by a tree buried underground may have provided Nathan the oxygen he needed to survive. Pastor Reul thinks Nathan may instead have cupped his hands around his mouth and nose to provide air.
"We don't know," he said.
Either way, it's a miracle, Pastor Reul believes.
"We feel most blessed," he said. "We feel the Lord granted us a miracle – to be under that much sand for that long of time and to be able to live, we feel – for us in our hearts – that God granted us a miracle.
"It's pretty overwhelming."
Pastor Reul's supposed to still be on vacation this week. But Konstanty said that Reul is planning to return to church this Sunday – to preach about the ordeal.
"I'm in the business where I get to see death overtake people and we do what pastors do," Reul explained. "But this is a time that death and dying did not win."