November 7 of 2015, 12-year-old Seth Apel was chopping wood with his dad Josh on their rural property in Knox, Pennsylvania.
His brothers jumped in to help as well while Seth hauled loads of wood back and forth for about an hour. On his final trip, the machine malfunctioned as it unloaded the wood automatically and came down on the boy’s right arm.
Seth saw blood seeping out immediately after the blade caught the right arm of his coat, but everything else was a blur. He didn’t even know that his arm had been completely torn off from the shoulder down.
“I knew everything was going to be okay,” said Seth Apel. “I didn’t know if I had my arm or not. I just knew God was there with me.”
Though he was in excruciating pain, Seth felt a sense of unexplainable calm come over him in that moment. The peace that passes understanding engulfed him, and he somehow just knew his faith would carry him through.
His grandfather responded quickly with a 911 call, and the emergency responders rushed to the scene. Because of the fast action of those involved, Seth’s arm was able to be reattached after an 8-hour surgery.
“That was amazing,” said his mother Angie. “That was not what I expected.”
Immediately after that miracle, the Apel family was showered with blessings as Seth Apel continued to defy the odds for his condition.
“Seth and his family are very inspiring and you know that he really is a special kid,” said Dr. Lorelei Grunwaldt (the surgeon who worked on Seth) in the aftermath of the accident. “I think that he’s made tremendous gains in a short amount of time.”
Three weeks later, Seth Apel left the hospital and was already asking the doctor if he could get in a tree stand and start hunting—AND just four months after the tragic accident, the ambitious boy decided he wanted to try out for the Little League team. The baseball lover played pitcher, catcher, shortstop and second base the year before, but he said, “This year is probably going to be first base; it is mostly catching and not as far to throw.”
Sure enough, he won a spot on the team as first baseman!
But that doesn’t mean it was easy. As a right-handed player, it was incredibly challenging for Seth to utilize his left arm to throw and catch—but he didn’t let that stop him. He watched videos online to help him gain skill with using his left hand when catching and throwing.
“He is determined,” says his dad.
Between Seth’s willful determination and unwavering faith, he’s inspired thousands with his story over the years.
“A positive outlook and attitude and willpower make a difference in terms of recovery,” said Dr. Grunwaldt. “He has a really strong support system and he is a really special kid.”
Because of Seth Apel’s consistent hope and courage, two years later, he was invited to EPCOT in Orlando to receive the Patients of Courage Award from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
In an interview by Patients of Courage, Seth Apel said, “God kept me going and he gave me this desire to just keep fighting, and I’m going to do that. So that’s why I’ve worked so hard on therapy and baseball and hunting and fishing and all that stuff. I didn’t really want to just give up on it because I really loved to do those things.”
According to his dad, he has continued to believe the accident happened for a reason.
In the same interview a couple years later, Grunwaldt recounted one of the first times she had a chance to spend time with Seth and his family outside the hospital was when she went to one of his home opener games. She said, “The family had built a press box, and it was a time that the family wanted to give back to the community. They had had all those who had helped care for him, and it was really special. They went out onto the field and Seth gave each of us a baseball that he had signed and telling us that we were the true heroes.”
Seth Apel didn’t keep the inspiration he felt to himself and his family. He went around speaking at a local high school and a teenagers’ Bible club. He said, “I basically say that if you keep your eyes on the future and you keep your faith in God then you can do anything. Don’t let anything stop you.”
Watch the full interview here:
Yet, even at the time of this interview, Seth still had not regained movement back in his hand. That’s why in November of 2017, he went back to the hospital for Surgery with the hopes of regaining that movement in his left hand. After he left the hospital, he and his family asked friends and family for prayers that the surgery would work.
Seth made a short video message saying, “Thank you for all your prayers. I’m doing fine. Just a little bit sore getting around and all that. I have a checkup on Friday, and I look forward to being back soon.”
Seth Apel Update
Today, Seth Apel is still playing baseball. He is a junior in high school, and his personal stats on his Varsity baseball team from the spring of 2021 were higher than the national average in almost every area, including his batting average. Check out his stats here.
While there has not been a widely-disseminated report that states that Seth Apel has regained movement in his right hand, doctors remain hopeful that future therapy and medical work could result in his desire coming true.
In a medical journal article on plastic surgery, Wesley N. Sivak wrote in 2018, “His shoulder and elbow function are nearly completely normal. He has the potential to undergo innervation free muscle transfer in the future if he does not regain adequate hand function.”
And as we saw from the power of Seth Apel’s faith, anything is possible!