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Man Shares His Experience with the Power of Prayer

John Martin - 700 Club Producer

“We started hitting the trail and I was giving her my all trying to keep up with him.”

19-year-old Tyler and Thomas Schoonbeck had ridden the trail many times.  Today, Tyler had fallen behind, as Thomas disappeared around a bend.

 “And he was setting a mean pace, man I couldn’t keep up with him at all.”

When Tyler turned the corner, he found Thomas rolling on the ground, gasping for breath – he never saw the cable that had been stretched across the trail at neck high.

“When he rolled on his back and I heard the gurgling blood that’s when, he was saying ‘oh, I can’t breathe. Oh, I can’t breathe.’ So, I knew it was a dire situation at that point.”

With Thomas hanging on, Tyler got the two of them back to his car, and headed for the hospital.

“He’s rocking back and forth. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I say hang in there, man. We’re almost there, we’re going to get you to the hospital it’s going to be alright.”

On the way, he called Thomas’ parents, Dave and Tonja Schoonbeck, who were out shopping. He met them in the hospital lobby.  

“Knowing Tyler, the way I do, when he walked out and I saw his face, I knew that it wasn’t good. So I go back there and there’s my son, all I can see is a laceration from here, you know, it’s like a big scrape across his neck. I just looked at the doctor and I said what are we going to do?  And he says this is life threatening. I said well what do you mean this is life threatening? He said this is life threatening.”

A cat scan revealed the cable had severed Thomas’ windpipe.    

“I said lord, if you’re going to take him home, you need to tell me now. And the lord said you don’t go by what you see. You don’t go by what you hear. You fight.”

Doctors inserted a trach, and put Thomas in a medically induced coma so he could be airlifted to university of Michigan hospital for emergency surgery. The family had a few minutes with him before they left.  

“I just, you know, bent over and just prayed with him. And, you know, told him again, you remember what the lord said and you fight. You’re going to live. You don’t go by what you see, you don’t go what you hear. You’re going to live. And again, I know that I know, that the Lord at that time was just keeping me.”

By the time the chopper landed, it was clear Thomas would live.  But he was still in critical condition.

“He was clearly very sick and had been very sick from the injury.”

Dr. Rishindra Reddy was Thomas’ surgeon.

“The fact that he was able to survive for that first however long, half an hour, an hour, it was for him to get from the site of injury to the emergency room, still very surprised by that.”

Doctor Reddy told the schoonbecks there was no guarantee their son would be able to talk or even eat and breathe on his own.

“Going in the operation, I wasn’t 100% sure what we would find. It’s not so much doing the repair and hooking things back together, it’s doing the dissection, making sure we don’t injure other vital structures.”

“They were worried about scarring and what that would cause him in long term. They really, at this point, still don’t know if he’s ever going to be able to be off the feeding tube.”

Tonja and Dave asked their friends and family to pray.

“Oh my goodness, yea my whole church was praying. I mean, there was prayer chains going on all over the place.”

Even though one of Thomas’ vocal cords was let paralyzed, Dr. Reddy deemed the three hour surgery a success.

“And I was even happier when we realized, at least one of his vocal cords was still intact. And that meant that ultimately, he’d be able to talk and be able to breathe normally and hopefully eat normally and things like that.”

“The first time I saw him I just remember I just was hugging him and loving him, praying with him.”

Prayer continued for Thomas, as each day brought small improvements. He started speaking with a whisper and after several weeks was able to go home. Then after three months of rehab, they took out the trach and the feeding tube, and Thomas was ready for a snack.

“So yeah, went and got a dr. Pepper and like a snickers or something. That was great. Yeah, it was like a glorious moment.”

Today, Thomas is a student at regent university with plans to work in youth ministry, and share his story about the power of prayer!

“When Christians are obedient to the discipline of prayer and they act in faith, God responds—God responds to that, things happen, you know. I gave him the glory and, just the thanksgiving for being alive."

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