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‘A miracle’: Boy trapped in sand for hours has good prognosis

Nathan Woessner 6 Sterling Ill. was trapped beneath sMount Baldy IndianDunes National Lakeshore Friday July 12. | AP

Nathan Woessner, 6, of Sterling, Ill., was trapped beneath the sand at Mount Baldy in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore on Friday, July 12. | AP

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Updated: August 17, 2013 6:19AM



CHICAGO — The doctor treating a 6-year-old boy who was trapped in the northern Indiana sand dunes says the boy should have a “generally good” outlook when he wakes.

Nathan Woessner of Sterling, Ill., about 100 miles west of Chicago, had been in critical condition at Comer Children’s Hospital in Chicago after he was rescued Friday from the dune known as Mount Baldy in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore near Michigan City.

Dr. Tracy Koogler, medical director of the pediatric intensive care unit at the University of Chicago Medicine, said Nathan is still in critical condition and is expected to stay on a ventilator until the end of the week. He will likely be released in 10 to 14 days.

Doctors at Comer hospital have been able to get down to Nathan’s main airways without seeing any sand, using a procedure that allows them to look inside the lungs’ airways.

Koogler also said that Nathan is being sedated, in part because like any normal 6-year-old he doesn’t like the tubes he has attached to him.

But when they wake him up, he is not expected to have serious issues, aside from possibly mild asthma, Koogler said, explaining that Nathan’s immune system views sand as a foreign body. As a result, she said it’s attacking the sand and might “cause wheezing.”

“The greatest challenge is . . . having his lungs get to a point that we can take the breathing tube out and I expect that we will be able to do that over the next couple of days,” she said.

The doctor said the fact that Nathan was breathing on his own when rescuers found him suggests there had to have been an air pocket in the dune.

Nathan’s grandfather, the Rev. Don Reul, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Galva, walked through how the night turned into a nightmare for Nathan, though he wasn’t there when it happened.

Reul said Nathan’s father, Greg Woessner, and another dad had decided to walk to the top of Mount Baldy to look around.

Nathan and an 8-year-old followed their dads, but “part of the way up, Nathan stepped in a sinkhole and disappeared out of sight,” Reul said, his voice shaking.

The 8-year-old boy immediately screamed, “Nathan is gone.” And the dads ran to where Greg was able to hear Nathan hollering. As the pair dug with their hands — and then other people quickly ran to help — Nathan went further and further down, Reul said.

About four hours after he disappeared, they found Nathan “cold and lifeless,” Reul said.

“When they picked him up, he had a cut on his face and it started to bleed. And they said, he’s got a heartbeat,” Reul said. “Hope began to bubble up in our family that Nathan’s not gone.”

It was nothing short of “a miracle,” Reul said.

He added, “I think there are a few sermons that will come out of this.”“God has been good to us,” he said.



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