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The 700 Club

Man Engulfed in Fireball Credits Prayer for Radical Recovery

John Martin - 700 Club Producer
Danielle Thompson - 700 Club Producer

“Finished working out and had a big woodpile that needed to get uh burnt down. I used some accelerant, which was gasoline, which was a huge mistake.  When I lit it a gust of wind came up at that opportune time and…I mean it happened instantaneously. The whole flame just engulfed my whole body.”

Training and instinct told Fred to drop and roll. His clothes didn’t catch fire, but the retired Navy Seal medic knew it was bad.

“And I saw my skin hanging from both my arms and my legs. Only thing that was on my mind at that moment was ‘I gotta get to the hospital.’”

Fred stumbled to his house and called his wife Julie, who was at their farm, 10 minutes away.

“When I got up to the house I was looking around. I was ready to drive out to the field to where the big fire was burning. And then he walked out of the house. I was like, ‘Whoa, okay. He's really burnt.’”

They wrapped his burns before starting out for the hospital in nearby Petersburg VA.

“The pain was so excruciating it was focused on getting to the hospital safely and getting into the emergency room for the docs to start working.”

Not equipped to treat burns of that severity, doctors gave orders to have Fred airlifted to the Virginia Commonwealth University Burn Center in Richmond. After watching her husband loaded into the helicopter, Julie started to pray.

“I was mainly just praying that he'd be okay.”

At VCU, Fred – who was still conscious -  was taken to the ICU in critical condition. With 2nd and 3rd degree burns on 22% of his body. 

“Accessing the extent of my burns and, more IV lines in and getting a camera down my throat to make sure I had no uh inhalation injury.”

“It was kind of a shock to see how much – how extensive the burns were.”

Doctors’ main concern was loss of circulation at the burn sites, especially in his right arm.  Lack of blood flow could cause kidney failure, which could lead to death.

“I was just afraid he was going to die. I knew God was there but uh I was just praying the whole time that he'd be okay.”

Amazingly, Fred’s lungs and airway were unharmed by the fireball. And after 48 hours in the ICU, circulation in his body had much improved.   

“The first few days the wounds looked really good and it was looking so good that uh they were telling me that he would probably be going home in like the end of the week.”

Fred’s return home, however, would be delayed. The burned tissue on his arms and legs became infected. Medical staff had to scrub and treat the underlying skin constantly. 

“Didn't matter how much they scrubbed they couldn't scrub hard enough, they couldn't get deep enough.  It just kept getting worse and worse and worse.”

The infection was so deep that doctors decided to cut out the infected tissue.  

Friends from church joined Julie in prayer.

“They actually came up and prayed with him before going into surgery as well. The support, it's really hard to put into words. So awesome and so uplifting.”

Doctors had to operate twice to remove all the infection. Once completed, they immediately started the long, painful process of skin grafting. Fred was simply grateful to be alive.

“It was really hard for me to accept that I almost died until I actually uh realized how close I was. I could have died right in my back yard. And Julie wouldn’t have known, probably for hours. That’s the whole reason for this right here, is to let everybody know that God answers prayers and he wants to heal.”

By all reports, Fred’s body healed more quickly than expected. A week and a half after his last skin graft, he was cleared to return home.

“They said it could be, you know, two to three months in the hospital.  And we found out that that following week uh that they were going to discharge me.”

After a month of physical therapy, Fred was released to go back to work at his premier medical trauma and tactical training company 

“And here were thinking that ‘okay, I'm going to be out of work for six months to a year uh what are we going to do?’  There's another miracle that God performed.”

When he’s not at work, Fred spends a lot of time with Julie working on their farm.  While his wounds have healed, the scars are a reminder of God’s faithfulness, and the prayers that brought them through.

“Prayer can be so powerful because it can give you such a peace, you know, when you need it. Strength when you need it, to help you through situations when you need it.”

“John 14, ‘Whatever you ask in my name, that I will do that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.’”

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