'He is a living miracle': Anchorage firefighter recovering from horrific 2017 fall

Published: Feb. 22, 2018 at 10:17 AM AKST
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On a June day in 2017, Anchorage firefighter Ben Schultz took a horrific fall from a 100-foot-tall ladder.

While the Anchorage Fire Dept. deemed its investigation of the situation inconclusive - stating they couldn't determine a specific cause of Schultz's fall, which apparently happened on a training day - one thing was certain: He was on the edge of death after suffering serious injuries, including broken bones, a punctured lung and severe brain damage.

"People get hurt, and then they get better," said Ben's father Jeff Schultz. "Brain injury is a whole different deal."

"We were told by the surgeon he wasn't sure Ben was going to survive," he said.

Immediately following the accident, Ben couldn't talk or even breathe on his own. He was transported to Providence Hospital in Anchorage on the slim chance he might survive.

"We just saw a hurt Ben," Jeff said, wiping tears from his eyes. "Kind of a lifeless Ben."

Eventually, with a fire department crew at his side on the way to his flight, Ben was flown to Colorado for treatment as friends and family - including his parents and wife, with whom he has two young children - hoped for some kind of miracle.

"Ben was in a vegetative state when he got to Craig (Hospital)," Jeff said.

Eight months later, though, Ben is on the road to recovery, and getting back to being his old self.

"One therapist has said seeing Ben's recovery is why she works there," Jeff said with tears in his eyes. "So, yeah, it's a big deal."

Today, Ben is walking, talking, and living, after even knowing his own name was something for which his family endlessly prayed.

"He's doing great," Jeff said. "It is a miracle. He is a living miracle."

So what's next for Ben Schultz? Channel 2 heard from the man himself on Wednesday:

"We are eight months into the rehabilitation process," Ben said in a recorded video. "And next week, I am starting my independent living and rehabilitation in Omaha, Nebraska"

"(It) should be about three months long," he said. "I'm looking forward to it, and hope it goes well. After that, I get to come home to Anchorage!"

Ben even said he's trying to return to his comrades at the Anchorage Fire Department.

"We're looking forward to him coming back here and leading a productive life again," Jeff said. "That may take some time, but that's all right. We are blessed."