SEATTLE - The University of Washington Medicine Burn Center at Harborview Medical Center calls Jimmy Stewart a miracle survivor. After 14 surgeries for burns that marred over 77 percent of his body, Stewart is finally going home.
Stewart was at the gym Wednesday afternoon, slowly flexing and stretching his skin, rehabilitating a body covered in burns.
"Trying to stretch out the skin is so hard. Face, and mouth, and all that, and just your skin," said Stewart. "I have bands that are so tight. It's really tough."
Tough is a good word to describe Stewart. The Baptist pastor suffered devastating burns when his cabin in Alaska exploded during a gas leak last summer.
"I was in the midst of the explosion," he said. "I came up and just had a collar on. It blew my shirt off, burned my shirt off."
Medics airlifted Stewart to Harborview. The survival rate for a 58-year-old man with the extent of his burns was not good.
"Sometimes you just have to be honest with the family and say, you know, this doesn't look so good, even from the get-go," said Dr. Tam Pham.
"They just said we're going to take it day by day. We have no idea what's going to happen. We're not going to make any promises," said Stewart.
One of the reasons Stewart defied the odds was because he was so physically fit before the accident. He believes another reason was spiritual support. As a pastor, his congregation had thousands of people praying for him. Doctors also credit his family, who plastered his hospital room full of photos of the people who loved him.
He remembers one talk with his daughter during a discouraging time.
"She said to me, 'See these pictures, Dad? 95 percent of these things you're going to do again. You're fully capable of doing those things,'” Stewart said. “They were things we did as a family."
Now, five months after the accident, Stewart made a last visit to Harborview to say thanks to the other folks who played a pivotal part – the staff in the burn unit.
They tell him he's one of the best patients they've ever had.
Now Stewart is off to live the next stage of his life back in Alaska, appreciating even more what a wonderful life it is.
Copyright 2016 KING