Nathan Woessner with his father.
Just nine days after he was trapped beneath some 11 feet of sand, the Illinois boy who miraculously survived is making a recovery and his family is speaking out.
Doctors at Comer Children’s Hospital in Chicago say Nathan Woessner continues to improve as they upgraded six-year-old from “serious” to “good” condition on Saturday. The announcement came just days after doctors held a press conference explaining Nathan’s medical state upon arrival at the hospital.
“I expected him to arrive much sicker than he did, and since he didn’t arrive sick I expected him the first 24 hours to get worse…which he didn’t,” said Dr. Tracy Koogler. Nathan was sedated and intubated as doctors worked to clear the sand from his system. The initial concern was making sure Nathan’s lungs could regain their strength and fight off the foreign bodies.
Officials think Nathan was able to survive thanks to a pocket of air beneath the surface. Despite access to some oxygen, doctors’ uncertainty about the extent of Nathan’s injuries earned him an extended stay in the intensive care unit.
The day after Nathan’s status was elevated from “serious” to “good,” his brother, Jake Reul, and his grandfather spoke about the ordeal.
“I saw sand and that was it I just saw my dad and his friend and my mom digging and I just started digging,” said Jake.
Woessner's grandfather, Don Reul also happens to be his pastor. Reul drove more than 15 hours from New York on a motorcycle when he heard about the accident. Since then Reul has been very open about what he says is nothing short of a “miraculous” rescue and recovery.
"Nathan was under so much sand for such a long period of time it takes the ‘maybe’ out of it and puts it in the miracle category for sure," said Reul.
In a sermon, Reul explained to his congregation how the rescue effort was “the hand of the Lord at work.” According to Reul, Nathan’s injuries could have been worse or even deadly. But because of God and the emergency responders, Reul says Nathan was saved.
“This is so definitive of a miracle it leaves so little wiggle room,” Reul added.
On Monday, July 22, Nathan’s parents Greg and Faith appeared on the Today Show for an exclusive interview with Savannah Guthrie. Guthrie recapped the events leading up to Nathan’s discovery and explained the remarkable progress he has made over the past week and a half.
Faith Woessner told the Today Show the family went down to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore for “all the fun things that come with camping.”
What the Woessners didn’t expect was their six-year-old son to be swallowed up by a hole in the dune.
Greg Woessner remembers hearing Nathan’s friend Collin hollering “Nathan fell in a hole.” From that moment on, Greg said it was “utter chaos.” The family attempted to dig Nathan out by hand, but no matter how hard or far they dug, they were unable to reach him.
“Dad said he wasn't that far down,” Jake recalled, “so I thought we might be digging for a little bit.” Finally, a friend of the family called 9-1-1 and the dig quickly morphed into a large-scale search and rescue.
"I just frantically wanted to get to him. And a sense of calmness helped me just to focus on what we needed to do that day. I just don't have an answer, I just was focused, right on him the whole time" said Greg.
A feeling of uncertainty combined with a determination to find Nathan fueled the dig. Faith remembers watching the backhoe digging and seeing all of the workers soaked in sweat as they pulled her son from the hole.
According to Reul, doctors will continue evaluating Nathan’s condition over the next few days but they are hopeful he’ll be released from the hospital by the end of next week.
“The journey started with him stepping in a sink hole there on Mt. Baldy on a Friday, it might be two weeks after the fact, on a Friday, that he comes back home. The miracle will have made it’s full circle right there,” said Reul.