Josh Anderson was all smiles three weeks after his near-drowning left doctors at St. Cloud Hospital wondering if the 19-year-old Brainerd man would live.Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist
Three weeks ago, doctors at St. Cloud Hospital weren't sure Josh Anderson would live.
Josh, a 19-year-old Brainerd resident, nearly drowned in Sylvan Lake July 21. He spent about two minutes under water until friends pulled him to a dock and administered CPR.
And though Josh was breathing again, doctors told the family to brace themselves for the worst.
"I thought there was a pretty good chance he wasn't going to make it through the night," said Josh's dad, Darrick Anderson.
But Josh did survive. In fact, his recovery was so quick, so complete, doctors and nurses at the hospital could only explain his recovery as a miracle, Darrick and Julie said. He's been back home about 10 days, getting himself ready to return to Central Lakes College and go back to work at Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Josh doesn't remember anything about that warm, sunny day he went swimming with his friends -- a fact Darrick said is probably for the best.
Just before 2 p.m. Josh and friends Jacquelyn Long, Lucas Harrington and Britta Lawrence decided to swim for a raft about 20 feet from a dock on Sylvan Lake. Halfway there, his friends said Josh stopped and began to panic. He bobbed in and out of the water a couple times and then sank to the bottom. Long dove underwater, grabbed Josh and, with the help of Lawrence, swam Josh to the dock. Harrington performed CPR.
Josh's mother, Julie Anderson, was at home when Harrington called her about Josh's near drowning. Julie called Darrick at work in Pequot Lakes and the two went to St. Joseph's Medical Center, where Josh had been airlifted. Josh was then flown to St. Cloud Hospital. His parents drove to St. Cloud and would stay there for the entirety of Josh's stay.
While driving to St. Cloud Julie suffered a panic attack and was admitted to the emergency room at St. Cloud Hospital. Darrick spent his first four hours at the hospital between Josh's critical care room and the emergency room visiting Julie.
While at Sylvan Lake, Josh had a seizure when the ambulance arrived. Among many other concerns the doctors at St. Cloud Hospital thought Josh might have suffered brain damage from his lack of oxygen. During his second day in St. Cloud doctors told Josh's parents that he also was suffering from acute respiratory distress syndrome.
Josh Anderson's mother, Julie Anderson (left), and his father, Darrick Anderson (middle), talked about their son's near-drowning July 21 on Sylvan Lake and his miraculous recovery 13 days later. Josh (right) doesn't remember anything about his near-death or his first days in the hospital.Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist
"With that they told us a lot of people, no matter what their health is, don't make it," said Darrick. Josh's family from around the country gathered at the hospital, fearing the worst.
During the next couple of days, Josh improved a little, though a ventilator was still breathing for him. By Saturday, July 24, Josh could nod his head, wiggle his toes and respond to people touching him.
"I asked him, 'Josh, this is your mom, you know I love you?'" said Julie. "He shook his head 'Yes' and we hung on that."
On that same Saturday doctors removed the ventilator but Josh struggled with his breathing. Doctors told the Andersons it could be months before he recovered from his trauma. The following day doctors said there was a chance Josh's lungs wouldn't recover and that all the doctors could do was wait to see if his lungs would heal.
During the next week Josh, little by little, began breathing on his own without the ventilator. Then, almost exactly a week after he almost drowned, Josh was transferred out of intensive care and into his own room. He soon woke up and asked his parents why they thought he was so sick that he had to be in the hospital.
Two benefits are planned to help the family of Josh Anderson with medical expenses not covered by insurance.
A garage sale will be Aug. 20-21 at the left garage stall at Landecker and Associates, 4646 Crow Wing County Road 11 in Pequot Lakes.
A benefit will be 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 25 at Family of Christ Lutheran School, 6785 Woida Road in Baxter. The event is co-sponsored by Zion Lutheran Church and Landecker and Associates. Sloppy joes, corn on the cob, potato chips, pickles and beverages will be served.
"The nurses, the doctors, they couldn't believe it," said Darrick of his son's recovery. He said a few of the critical care nurses had to go upstairs to see it for their own eyes.
Josh spent the remainder of his 13 days in the hospital in physical, occupational and speech therapy. On Aug. 3, Josh returned home -- what his parents had prayed for the previous two weeks.
"I'll just stare at him and he'll go, 'Mom, what are you doing?'" said Julie. "I can't believe he's here and he's OK."
Josh has spent his time at home regaining his strength and appetite. He can't drive for six months and he needs to avoid high-risk activity as a precautionary measure because of the seizures he suffered during his ordeal. He's not allowed to go swimming, but because he doesn't remember what happened to him he said he has no fear of water. He is considering taking swimming lessons next spring. But in the meantime, he's been getting ready for the fall semester at Central Lakes College.
"I'm doing pretty good," Josh said.
Josh said he's had a chance to visit his co-workers at Kentucky Fried Chicken and with Harrington and Lawrence, two of the three who helped save his life.
"I'm very thankful for what they did," Josh said.
"They're heroes," Darrick said. "To have the wherewithal to keep calm and do what they did -- not panic and do exactly everything they needed to do."
Darrick said he and Julie said they were blessed with great doctors and nurses at St. Cloud Hospital. They said they also were comforted with all the prayers and help from their church, Zion Lutheran Church in Brainerd, their family, friends and neighbors, who took care of their lawn and pets while they were in St. Cloud. Darrick and Julie also are appreciative of Darrick's employer and co-workers at Landecker and Associates for their thoughts and prayers and assistance, and to their family who comforted them and their other two sons, Jeremy and Justin.
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