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CBN.com Christian missionary Art Sanborn found the Hawaiian coast too great a temptation. Before teaching a seminar in Hawaii, he spent a day at the beach body surfing with his son David.
But the joy of surfing ended abruptly when a giant wave slammed Art to the ocean floor, cracking his neck.
“It was one of those rogue waves that picks you up and throws you down, and when I hit the bottom of the beach, I heard my neck go crack,” Art explains.
Suddenly, Art Sanborn found himself paralyzed, bobbing face-down in the water.
“As I tried to move and swim, I just – nothing was moving. I could see my body, but I just couldn’t feel any part of my body,” he says.
According to Art, that tragic day in 1998 was actually the beginning of a series of God’s miracles. For example, an off-duty lifeguard just happened to see the accident and came to Art’s rescue the second he could no longer hold his breath.
“He then pulled me to shore and held me in a vice-like grip until the ambulance arrived 40 minutes later,” notes Art.
Paramedics rushed Art to the hospital, and he was airlifted to a top neurosurgeon in Honolulu.
“It was a spinal cord contusion secondary to a spinal cord compression and very high level in his neck – above the level of breathing,” says Dr. Robinson. “It could have easily killed him.”
The damaged nerves threatened to shut down Art’s breathing ability at any moment. If his condition wasn’t stabilized, he could suffocate. After six hours of surgery, Art’s life was saved – but he was paralyzed from the neck down.
“They kept telling me this was an injury as serious as Christopher Reeves’,” Art recalls. “He just said, for my own mental health, I needed to accept the fact that I would have to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair.”
Despite all the negative medical reports, Art was determined that he would walk again.
“I had zero feeling, but I was able to move both my feet and the fingers on my left hand,” he says.
When Art left the hospital nine weeks later, his wife and son became his caregivers. After a physical therapist worked with Art in a swimming pool, his wife, Ellen, took over.
“I put his feet on my feet and his hands in my hands and we began to dance around the pool. I began to sing to him, and I just felt, somehow, we can do this,” says Ellen.
The family also enlisted prayer support.
“We were getting something like 25 e-mails a day from friends in Thailand and friends in California saying our church of 2,000 is praying for you, so thousands of people around the world were praying, people that didn’t even know us,” Ellen remarks.
Within one month of leaving the hospital, Art was able to stand with a walker and move his legs, even though they had no feeling.
“When I was able to stand up, just being in a vertical stance, there was just something in my spirit letting me know that if I just pursued the little bit, God would do the big bit,” says Art. “I was going to be able to walk again.”
In another six weeks, he could move around with the help of a cane. Ten months later, against all medical opinions, Art Sanborn walked on his own for the first time without a cane. He also returned to the hospital in Hawaii to say hello and challenge his former therapists to a basketball game.
“They said, ‘Look, we can’t play you.’ And I said, ‘Why not?’ They said, ‘If we beat you, what are we going to brag? That we beat a quadriplegic?’”
Art also visited with quadriplegic patients from his former hospital ward.
“’You were a patient here?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ ‘But,’ they said, ‘this is a ward for quadriplegics.’ And I said, ‘Yes. That’s what I was.’ And they said, ‘But you’re walking around.’ And I said, ‘That’s the power of prayer.’”
Two years later, feeling returned to his legs. Today, Art runs five days a week, six miles a day. His testimony also has inspired others to new depths of faith in God’s ability to heal. Art plans to write a book about his healing.
“I’m not going to be able to write my last chapter until I can beat my two sons in basketball,” he says. “Then I’m coming back here to play the therapists.”
“This miracle of healing is strictly about prayer and nothing else,” notes Ellen. “There is no earthly reason to believe that he would ever walk again.”
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