On the evening of August 16, 2003 Seth had left a restaurant with a girlfriend and came around a long corner on a freeway in Riverside, California, when he encountered a car that had slowed down in front of him. To avoid hitting the car, he first changed lanes to the left, but seeing another vehicle in that lane, he swerved hard to the right, missing both cars but overcorrecting and jumping the curb only to roll down a 30-foot embankment. Coincidentally, a teacher from his school (California Baptist University) was several cars back and witnessed the accident. She called 911 and, not even knowing they were students from her school, pulled off the road to pray for the occupants of the little blue Chevy, since others had already stopped and were moving to help.
The closest fire station was about a mile away, and the aid cars cut a hole in a chain link fence and then drove across a small field to get to the accident site. An unknown lady appeared at the scene and held Nicole (Seth’s passenger – gratefully, she suffered only a broken nose and bruises), and began praying fervently for both of them. Seth had been thrown out of his car and was found by the medics about thirty feet away from where his truck came to rest. He was not breathing, so an oxygen mask was placed over his face and he was rushed to Riverside Community Hospital, where a team of doctors and technicians worked on him for about six hours before transferring him to ICU. Interestingly, a security guard who happened to be in the emergency room that night saw Seth as he was wheeled in and immediately began praying for him, as well.
Seth’s injuries were all internal, and included a severely lacerated lung, trauma to his head (a very severe concussion), broken ribs, collarbone and pelvis, and damage to his liver. For about 14-18 hours, his oxygen absorption rate was critically low because of the damaged lung. He had lost a lot of blood, and over the next several weeks he would receive sixteen units of blood and at least that many units of plasma. The doctors did not expect him to live through the night, and the chief trauma physician who led the team later called Seth’s survival “a miracle.”
After spending five weeks in ICU at Riverside Community Hospital, Seth was flown to Seattle in a special medically-equipped Learjet where he spent another five weeks in ICU at Swedish Hospital. He was finally moved to a nursing care facility in Puyallup, Washington where he resided for nearly two years. In August of 2005 we (his parents) brought him home to care for him ourselves.
Despite doctors’ original prognosis that, “Whatever you get in six months is all he’ll ever have,” Seth has progressed from his original comatose condition to being minimally conscious. He can hear but cannot speak and still must be fed via a stomach tube. The neurologist originally told us that, since it was the “responder” portion of his brain that was injured, he is aware of at least part of what is going on around him and perhaps even everything, but can respond only in limited fashion. He does react to our requests (both verbal and written) with movements of his right foot, right hand, and with blinks, although still somewhat inconsistently. He frequently rewards us with smiles.
In 2012, after devoting most of her time to her son’s care, Mary Esvelt was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in May and passed away in October. She is sorely missed, and her love and sacrifice for her son will never be forgotten and continues to be an inspiration to her family and those who knew her. Seth now continues to live at home and is cared for by his father, Craig.