On Feb. 21, 2015, Don Smith found his son Justin unconscious and frozen on the side of the road – with no heartbeat.
Earlier in the night, the then 25-year-old had gone out for a few drinks with friends and then decided to walk home in a snowstorm in Allentown, Pennsylvania, according to WFMZ.
But he never made it home.
Doctors presume he must have slipped, hit his head and landed in a snowbank. And that’s where he remained for 12 hours – in 4-degree temperature – until his father found him the next morning.
“I just looked in his eyes and said, ‘You can’t leave me, you can’t leave me,’ ” Don told the news outlet.
With no pulse or blood pressure, paramedics assumed he was dead, but an emergency department physician at Lehigh Valley Hospital wasn’t about to give up hope.
After Justin was flown to the Pennsylvania hospital, doctors were able to bring him back to life after using an ECMO machine to drain his blood, oxygenate it, take out the carbon dioxide, warm it up and put it back in his body.
“I just said maybe we can give this person a chance. I just kind of made a split second decision saying you know what you need to be warm to be pronounced,” Dr. Gerald Coleman told the news outlet.
Justin’s heart began beating again, but he remained in a coma for 15 days. He shocked doctors when he work up without any sign of brain damage.
Now, almost a year later – and after a lot of physical therapy – Justin was able to thank the team of doctors who saved him.
“I came back and it’s pretty much a miracle. All I can say is it’s amazing. I am thankful for everyone,” said Justin on Monday.