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On his way home, Justin walked down a road he had traveled numerous times prior when the unthinkable happened – he became trapped in the snow and frigid temperatures of -4 degrees and never made it home. After receiving phone calls from Justin’s friends, his father Don went looking for his son only to discover his seemingly lifeless body on the side of the road.
“I just held him and sobbed. It was the worst day of my life,” Don tells ER physician Dr. Travis Stork.
His family feared for the worst, as he had no pulse and was not breathing. Paramedics on the scene sought guidance from ER physician Dr. Gerald Coleman of Lehigh Valley Hospital, who instructed them to begin CPR on Justin. The CPR continued at the hospital for hours, where Dr. Coleman enlisted the help of 15 other colleagues in an effort to slowly warm and revive him.
Dr. Stork asks Dr. Coleman what made him go the extra mile, when it could have been easy to assume that Justin did not stand a chance.
“It was the 9-year anniversary of my daughter dying, that particular day. So, I sat back remembering feeling absolutely hopeless about preventing her death… I said to myself, If I ever get to be in a situation where I can make a difference, even if seems like there are insurmountable odds, I’m going to at least try on the patient’s behalf. This is someone’s child, this is someone’s friend, someone’s colleague and you have to do everything in your power to at least try,” he explains.
Justin was then airlifted to another hospital, in order to undergo an ECMO procedure, which adds oxygen and removes carbon dioxide from the blood to prevent tissue from dying.
Despite, his arms and feet being black from the cold and having very little brain function, his family did not give up hope. Looking back on the horrific day, his mom Sonja remembers telling her husband at time, “We will take him any way, we will take him any way we can – even if he is a vegetable. We’ll go visit him every day in a nursing home if we have to." Adding, “I never gave up hope.”
Through the determination of the medical staff, the hope of his family and his fight to be alive, Justin beat the odds, which Dr. Stork celebrates.
“This story is so much about perseverance. It’s about family, love, perseverance of the individual, of the doctors. It’s really about miracles,” Dr. Stork says, welcoming Justin to the stage.
“11 months ago I was dead, and now I’m here today. It’s unbelievable. I never thought it would happen,” he says joining his family and the ER doctor who saved his life. “I can never be thankful enough. I got my life back. I shouldn’t even be here today. It really just goes to show that amazing things can happen when you’re surrounded by amazing people doing their job. I’m blessed.”
After the incident, Justin lost all of his toes and both of his pinky fingers due to the exposure to the elements, but The Doctors, with the help of maxillofacial prosthetist David Trainer and The Center for Custom Prosthetics, surprise Justin with $40,000 worth of custom-fitted prosthetics. That wasn’t the only surprise we had for Justin, who is an avid golfer. Find out what professional golfer Phil Michelson, GolfLocker.com, and The David Leadbetter Golf Academy have in store for him, here!