Severe injuries strengthen local man’s faith

Published 7:19 pm Friday, April 15, 2016

KEVIN SCOTT CUTLER | DAILY NEWS FAITH: Jonathan Hudson, pictured with wife Stephanie and daughters Madison and Mallory, shares the story of his recovery from severe burns last summer. He was injured in a July 3 boat fire at his Blounts Creek home.

FAITH: Jonathan Hudson, pictured with wife Stephanie and daughters Madison and Mallory, shares the story of his recovery from severe burns last summer. He was injured in a July 3 boat fire at his Blounts Creek home.

BLOUNTS CREEK — A close brush with death last summer has given a Beaufort County man a renewed sense of God’s love and added a new dimension to his testimony as a Christian.

On the evening of July 3, 2015, Chocowinity native Jonathan Hudson and a friend, Tracey Connor, were working on a boat at Hudson’s Blounts Creek home. That routine summertime activity would change Hudson’s life.

“A cordless drill ignited gas fumes inside the boat’s cabin,” Hudson recalled in a recent interview. “A flash of flames pretty much engulfed me and, out of reflex, I jumped out of the fire. That put me further into the cabin.”

That was just the beginning of the nightmarish experience.

“I was initially burned on my legs and arms at that time, and I had no exit, no where to go,” Hudson said.

Connor was in the back of the boat and was able to jump free and search for a fire extinguisher. Meanwhile, Hudson was grabbing everything he could in an attempt to smother the flames.

“But there was nothing I could do,” said Hudson, who estimated he was trapped in the burning boat for about three minutes. “When I was in there I realized there was nothing anybody could do to help me, and that was the worst feeling I’ve ever felt in my life. It was pure, 100-percent hopelessness.”

Hudson refused to give up, however.

“Something just kind of came over me and I told myself I had to get out,” he continued. In a last ditch effort, he grabbed an inner tube skirt and used it as a body shield, running through several feet of flames.

“And then I was out of the boat,” he said. “I remember walking over to the water hose to get some kind of relief.”

By that time, neighbors were showing up to offer assistance; Hudson’s oldest daughter, Madison, soaked towels in cold water to soothe the burned flesh. Soon, fire and rescue personnel were on the scene.

East Care was grounded that night, so the decision was quickly made to transport the injured man via ambulance to the burn center in Chapel Hill. His breathing was deteriorating rapidly, and he was in a great deal of pain.

Once in Chapel Hill, Hudson was placed on a ventilator and put in a medically induced coma. Doctors began the intricate process of skin grafting, but Hudson has no memory of his recovery until he awoke fully in mid-August.

“I had to learn to walk, talk, swallow … any type of bodily function,” he said. “I went in the hospital weighing 210 pounds and I left at 170 pounds. When you wake up, it’s rehabilitation time and you have to really focus on being a patient and listening to the doctor.”

Hudson said he never gave in to self pity.

“I was sad, but I didn’t blame God or anything,” he said. “When my brain woke up, my one mission was to go home, to play music and to sing again.”

Meanwhile, back home, family, friends and even strangers were rallying in support of the Hudson family. They offered prayers, financial support and emotional support. Tracey, Jaime and Jessica Connor took Hudson’s youngest daughter, Mallory, under their wing; daughter Madison found a second home with Preston, Diane and Hannah Ashby. In late August, with Hudson fighting to recovery from his injuries, his wife, Stephanie, was able to tell him of the blessings that continued to come their way. That further strengthened Hudson’s resolve to walk out of the hospital as soon as humanly possible.

A talented musician, Hudson incorporated learning to play the piano and guitar again into his physical therapy. At one point, he sat down at a piano in the hospital and picked out a tune.

“It wasn’t pretty,” he said with a smile. “But I knew then it was going to be all right.”

The Hudson family celebrated his homecoming Sept. 5 and a little over a month later he sang again at his church, Eastern Pines Church of Christ. In the process, he weaned himself off seven types of heavy sedation medications and eased back into his church and work roles. He took a big step when he returned to work at Hudson Signs, a business he operates with his parents.

Hudson also began sharing his testimony during appearances at area churches.

“It’s all because of Jesus,” he said of his recovery. “Jesus Christ is Lord. The hopelessness I felt in that boat, when I was staring death down … I don’t want anyone to feel that. But I don’t see how anyone could have had a greater outcome than I have.”

It’s a message he is eager to share with others.

“All of my healing has been because of the grace and mercy of Jesus and through the answered prayers of the community,” Hudson said. “Through those prayers came a very speedy recovery for my overall health.”

While Hudson knows it is impossible to thank everyone who had a hand in his recovery, he did single out the fire and rescue personnel for their kindness and professionalism immediately after he was burned. And he wanted to pay tribute to someone else, as well.

“My wife Stephanie was there every day,” he said. “She stuck beside me.”

Hudson still shakes his head in wonder over how communities near and far prayed for his recovery.

“I felt I was not deserving, but it’s good to know his grace covers anything,” Hudson said. “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and his righteousness.”