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Baseball Youth Loses Arm in Freak Accident

November 7, 2015, EMT Joe responds to a 911 call to a home in rural Pennsylvania.  He arrives to find 12- year-old Seth Apel lying on the ground, bleeding from where his right arm used to be.

“And he said, ‘I want to die, I’m a baseball player, I’m a pitcher.’ And I said, ‘You don’t want to die buddy, you’re going to be okay,’” said Joe.

Seth had been dumping firewood using a trailer that ran off the tractor’s power takeoff or PTO.  It was still running when Seth tried using a stick to fix a gear chain on the trailer that had become loose.  It was the last thing he remembers.

EMT Joe said, “It was a freak accident.  It was a cold day, he had on a heavy coat and there was a bolt sticking out of the PTO shaft and it caught and ripped the jacket and shirt off of him and ripped his arm off.”

Seth’s grandfather came out when he heard the screams, and called 911. Less than a mile away, Seth’s dad, Josh, was stilling cutting firewood, unaware of what had happened.

Josh said, “And that's when I just started walking down the hill and that's when I saw my father-in-law coming up over the hill and he said, ‘It's Seth, something happened.’"

At the time, Seth’s mother, Angie, was at a friend’s house 30 minutes away and got a call.

Angie said, “All she said was, ‘It's Seth. It’s Seth.’”

“During the whole drive I was praying, ‘God, tell me he's alive.  God, tell me he's alive.’  And the voice that I that I heard, God saying, ‘Everything's going to be okay.’  And that's all I could get.  I’m like, ‘No, I don't want that because I know that, you know.  And everything's going to be okay, but I want to know if he's going to be alive.’"

By now the ambulance had taken Seth and his severed arm to a designated landing zone to await a helicopter.  Josh arrived moments later.

He said, “He's yelling and screaming and the thing that really hits me is he's just yelling, ‘I just want to see Jesus.  I just want to see Jesus.’”

As Angie got off the interstate she saw the helicopter, a sign that God had answered her prayer.

“And I just started praising God because I knew that if there was a helicopter, he wasn't dead,” said Angie.

Soon after she arrived the chopper left for Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh with Seth and his dad on board. Now they were in a race against the clock to save the boy’s arm. Plastic Surgeon Lorelei Grunwaldt had been called in to assist in surgery.

“I think what first went through my head was, the nerves were torn,” said Dr. Grunwaldt. “When the nerves are stretched or torn the patient isn’t a good candidate for an replantation.”

As the staff rushed Seth into the operating room, Josh did what he could.

“I start texting everyone that ‘Seth was in an accident.  Pray for him,’" said Josh.
“Within hours hundreds of people are saying that they're praying.”

In the operating room the consensus of the surgical team was that the damage to Seth’s arm was too extensive to be reattached.  Dr. Grunwaldt was the exception.

“In my heart and my mind I felt that there was greater than a 50% chance of it being successful,” said Dr. Grunwaldt.  “So we debated a little and I wanted give it a shot.”

It wasn’t until Angie arrived two hours later that a surgeon came out to tell them what they were attempting to do.

Angie said, “Our jaws kind of hit the floor.  You did what?  You reattached?
So we had something more specific we had to pray for.”

By now word was getting out on social media and thousands of people were praying.  In surgery, doctors worked to repair thousands of severed blood vessels, nerves and arteries.  After six hours, they had successfully reattached Seth’s arm.

But the first 48 hours were critical, and all the family could do was wait and pray.

“It was just God.  I mean, it's funny, until you're in that situation you don't think you'd have the strength, but He gives it to you.  And He gives you the faith,” said Angie.   

Seth woke up 24 hours later.  A Bible scripture, Philippians 4:13, was on his mind.

“They were asking me how I was feeling and I said, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,’” said Seth.

Angie said, “I didn't realize his faith was so strong.  So I was just very, very proud of him.  I knew that he has a determined spirit.”

The 48-hour mark passed and it was clear the surgery had been a success.  Three weeks later Seth was released and started physical therapy.  He worked hard, because there was something he wanted to do.

It didn’t matter to Seth that he couldn’t use his right hand he just found a way around it. Six months after surgery he stepped up to the plate for his team.

Seth said, “I just swung and I started running and it really pushed me but I got there, I realized, I’m on base, let’s win this.  And we ended up winning that game.”

“Honestly I believed from the beginning I just had a sense that this could work,” said Dr. Grunwaldt.    

As Seth continues to improve he keeps working on his game.  

"Seriously?  Only God can do that.  You know, it's just amazing!" said Josh.

Seth said, “If you trust in Him and follow Him He’ll get you through it.  It doesn’t matter what the consequences or what’s going on if you keep your eyes focused on Him you can do everything through Christ.”

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