John Smith was playing on the frozen Lake Sainte Louise in St Charles, Missouri, with two friends in January 2015.
Suddenly, the ice cracked beneath them and the three boys plunged deep into the sub-zero water.
John’s two friends managed to escape, but the then-14-year-old sank to the bottom and was underwater for 15 minutes.
First responders rushed him to St Joseph Hospital West and tried to revive him for nearly 45 minutes, but they were unsuccessful and he was declared dead.
But as his mother, Joyce, cried and prayed over his body – John’s heart began beating again.
The incredible story has been being into a blockbuster movie starring Chrissy Metz and John, now 18, hopes his journey inspires others to maybe believe in miracles themselves.
John Smith, 18 (left and right), fell into a frozen lake in St Charles, Missouri, in January 2015 and was underwater for 15 minutes. First responders tried to revive him for nearly 45 minutes, but were unsuccessful
His mother, Joyce, began to pray over his body and, minutes later, his heart started beating again. Pictured: John in the hospital
Joyce was getting ready to go pick her son up when she got a phone call from a friend informing her of the accident, she told CBN.
Doctors said there was nothing more they could do and told her she could go see him.
‘[I] walked up to the end of the bed and felt his feet, how cold and gray they were,’ she told PEOPLE.
‘I remembered in church all my life hearing this scripture that says: “The Holy Spirit will raise Christ Jesus from the dead”.’
Joyce, now 68, said she knelt over her son’s body, crying and praying and asked God to ‘give me back my son’.
She says that, just a few minutes later, John’s heart began beating again.
Doctors told Joyce and John’s father, Brian, that the teenager had suffered extensive brain damage and was in organ failure.
They told the Smiths there was a one percent chance John would make it through the night and, if he did, he would likely be in a vegetative state for the rest of his life.
Yet John slowly began recovering and, 16 days after he landed in the hospital, he walked out – stunning the medical community and sowing his family’s seeds of faith even deeper.
This is not the first instance of someone being declared dead only to later ‘come back to life’.
Doctors told Joyce and John’s father, Brian, that the teenager had suffered extensive brain damage and was in organ failure. Pictured, left to right: John, Brian and Joyce
John slowly began recovering and, 16 days after he landed in the hospital, he walked out. Pictured: John Smith poses with first responders during a dedication ceremony at the Lake Saint Louis Community Association in March 2019
In Poland, a 91-year-old woman woke up in a morgue 11 hours after doctors told her family she had passed away, reported the BBC.
In 2014 in Mississippi, a 78-year-old man who had been declared dead woke up in a funeral home in a body bag, reported The Guardian.
Such cases are known as Lazarus syndrome, when circulation spontaneously returns to the body long after CPR has stopped.
The syndrome is in reference to Lazarus, the man that Jesus Christ allegedly rose from the dead, according to the New Testament.
According to Medical News Today, Lazarus syndrome was first reported in medical literature in 1982 and there have been at least 38 reported cases.
Doctors are unsure of why the rare phenomenon occurs, but there are some theories.
One is that CPR builds up pressure in the chest and, when CPR stops, it goes down and give the heart a reboot, according to a 2016 article.
Another is that the dead person merely looks dead and is actually suffering from catalepsy, a neurological disorder in which the muscles become stiff and remain whatever position they are placed, breathing slows and a heartbeat is at nearly undetectable levels.
The phenomenon is known as Lazarus syndrome, which is when circulation spontaneously returns to the body long after CPR has stopped. At least 38 cases have been documented since 1982. Pictured: Actress Chrissy Metz, left, and John attend the premiere of Breakthrough
The incredible story has been turned into a blockbuster movie Breakthrough starting Chrissy Metz as Joyce. Pictured: Joyce, played by Metz, by John’s beside in the hospital
Today, John says he has no memory of the accident and shockingly suffered no permanent damage.
He told PEOPLE that he struggled with trying to trying to figure out how he survived the ordeal.
‘I had to deal with answering the question of “Why me?”‘ he told the magazine. ‘After time and a lot of prayer and mentoring, I eventually saw that God is the only way to get through something like this.’
His story is the inspiration behind the new film Breakthrough starring Chrissy Metz of NBC’s This Is Us as Joyce and 15-year-old Marcel Ruiz from Netflix’s One Day At A Time as John.
Breakthrough, which is produced by 20th Century Fox and distributed by Disney, comes on the heels of other Christian-themed movies such as Unplanned and Heaven Is For Real.
‘I have always loved true stories. We all want something to believe in,’ Metz told Parade.
‘We hold tight to hope through the winding road of life, and we come out on the other side of traumatic events stronger and more compassionate and closer to ourselves, our families and our communities.”