‘A miracle:’ Boy trapped in sand for hours has good prognosis
BY MONIFA THOMAS Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org July 15, 2013 10:55PM
Nathan Woessner, 6, of Sterling, Ill., was trapped beneath the sand at Mount Baldy in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore on Friday, July 12. | AP
Updated: August 17, 2013 6:46AM
A 6-year-old boy who was trapped in the northern Indiana sand dunes is expected to have a “generally good” outlook once he’s released from the hospital in two weeks — something the boy’s grandfather called nothing short of a miracle.
Nathan Woessner of Sterling, about 100 miles west of Chicago, had been in critical condition at Comer Children’s Hospital in Chicago after he was rescued Friday from the dune known as Mount Baldy in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore near Michigan City.
The National Park Service is working to determine what caused a sinkhole that buried the boy. A park official said one possibility is that a decomposed tree under the dune left a void in the sand that may have opened up.
Dr. Tracy Koogler, medical director of the pediatric intensive care unit at the University of Chicago Medicine, said Nathan is still in critical condition and is expected to stay on a ventilator until the end of the week. He will likely be released in the next 10 to 14 days.
Doctors at Comer hospital have been able to get down to Nathan’s main airways without seeing any sand, using a procedure that allows them to look inside the lungs’ airways.
She also said that Nathan is being sedated, in part because like any normal 6-year-old he doesn’t like the tubes he has attached to him.
But when they wake him up, he is not expected to have serious issues, aside from possibly mild asthma, Koogler said, explaining that Nathan’s immune system views sand as a foreign body. As a result, she said it’s attacking the sand and might “cause wheezing.”
“The greatest challenge is . . . having his lungs get to a point that we can take the breathing tube out and I expect that we will be able to do that over the next couple of days,” she said.
The doctor said the fact that Nathan was breathing on his own when rescuers found him suggests there had to have been an air pocket in the dune.
Nathan’s grandfather, the Rev. Don Reul, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Galva, walked through how a typical family night turned into a nightmare for Nathan, though he wasn’t there when it happened.
Reul said Nathan’s father Greg Woessner and another dad had decided to walk to the top of Mount Baldy to look around.
Nathan and an 8-year-old followed their dads, but “part of the way up, Nathan stepped in a sinkhole and disappeared out of sight,” Reul said, his voice shaking.
The 8-year-old boy immediately screamed, “Nathan is gone.” And the dads ran to where Greg was able to hear Nathan hollering. As the pair dug with their hands – and then other people quickly ran to help, Nathan went further and further down, Reul said.
It was around this time when Reul got a call from his hysterical daughter, telling him that “‘We can’t find Nathan. He is under the sand,’” Reul said. “We thought he was dead.”
But about four hours after he disappeared, they found Nathan “cold and lifeless,” Reul said.
“When they picked him up, he had a cut on his face and it started to bleed. And they said, he’s got a heartbeat,” Reul said. “Hope began to bubble up in our family that Nathan’s not gone.”
That Nathan survived after being swallowed under 11 feet of sand for more than three hours was nothing short of “a miracle,” Reul said.
“I’m fully convinced that God intervened in this,” Reul said. “In the Bible, you read about all the scriptures, and it’s exhilarating to read about those miracles in the Bible, but this one came home to us.”
He added, “I think there are a few sermons that will come out of this.”
Contributing: Amy Lavalley