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He Should be Dead

Nikita Skorykh's minivan was T-boned by a heavy duty pickup truck, but prayer turned a tragedy into multiple miracles.

As the EMS ambulance technicians arrived on the scene of the accident on May 19, it didn’t take more than a glance to assume that they were there just to pick up a body. When a three-ton Silverado 2500 diesel pickup truck T-bones the driver’s door of a family minivan, the accident is usually fatal.

Nikita Skorykh (Scor-yick) was not breathing. He had no pulse. When the driver of the Silverado hit him, she was distracted, so brakes were not immediately applied, and the van was bulldozed and rolled 20 yards sideways down the street.

Nikita, 25, a graduate of North Central University and attending AG Theological Seminary, had just dropped off his young son, Judah, at his mother-in-law’s home as he was headed to work. His wife, Elona, who was 8-months pregnant with their second son, Ezra, was thankfully not with him at the time.

When the truck hit Nikita, Olga Vedernikov, Elona’s mother, came rushing out of her house. She later told the couple that it sounded like a rocket hitting a building and collapsing. Inside the house, Elona’s brother, Dima, called 911.

“She ran down the driveway with Judah in a stroller,” Nikita says. “She told me she started praying for life to come back into me and then started praying in tongues, because she didn’t know what else to do. About six minutes into her prayers, suddenly I coughed and started to breathe. I know that if she would have not prayed, I would not be here today — I believe God brought me back to life.”

Firefighters had to use the Jaws of Life to extract Nikita from the wreckage. The driver’s side door was caved in nearly to the mid-section of the van. Although Nikita was wearing a seatbelt, one is left to ponder how he — even with a slim build — wasn’t crushed to death.

On the way to the Springfield, Missouri, Cox hospital, the EMS technicians worked to keep Nikita alive.

When Elona arrived at the hospital, the news wasn’t good. Nikita had a very serious traumatic brain injury (TBI), a torn spleen, internal bleeding, a partially collapsed left lung, and a C1 vertebrate fracture.

Although the TBI was of great concern to doctors, the C1 fracture created even greater concern as spinal cord injuries of this kind frequently result in death. Those who survive usually experience full paralysis.

Doctors told Elona that due to the severity of the TBI and the unknown impact of the C1 injury, if Nikita survived, he would likely be in the hospital for at least six months to a year.

In addition to the stress of the unknowns surrounding Nikita and expecting a child, the couple had also just opened a new business about two weeks earlier, which Nikita ran: Bloom’s Coffee Bar & Bakery. This also led to the concern that the stress could cause Elona to go into premature labor.

Yet, within hours of Nikita’s hospitalization, hundreds, if not thousands, of people were praying for him. The couple, who attend Bread of Life (AG), a Russian/Ukrainian church in nearby Rogersville, not only had that congregation praying, but also friends and churches in Nikita’s hometown of Minneapolis, as well as friends in Washington, Oregon, Ukraine, and Russia, and churches in Poland, Austria, and Switzerland as well as many individuals through social media.

“They had him on a lot of sedation,” Elona recalls about the first few days of Nikita’s hospitalization. “The MRI showed a lot of bleeding spots in his brain and a lot of swelling in the left front lobe of his brain.”

But on day three, as prayers continued, things started to swing in Nikita’s favor. The inflammation started to go down. However, the extent of damage to his brain remained unclear, though with the severity of the TBI, typically it meant total memory loss, which may at least partially return, and having to relearn muscle function, such as how to speak, walk, and dress himself. And then there was the potential loss of function due to the C1 injury.

“A friend of mine, Josh McDonald, from Kansas City, came by to pray for me,” Nikita says. “He later told me that he thought I was brain dead, because even though my eyes were open, I wasn’t responding at all. He said he was praying over me and suddenly started prophesying about how God was going to use me all the while his inner self was thinking ‘these are crazy words; he’s brain dead.’”

Then came a breakthrough. Doctors, reducing the medication, began asking Nikita to wiggle toes and fingers — and he did! This meant not only was Nikita’s brain functioning, but he wasn’t paralyzed!

From that point on, Nikita’s recovery was nothing short of miraculous. As the doctors slowly withdrew the medication, Nikita began to communicate and respond more readily. The following week, even though doctors had said he would have to spend six months in a hospital (and in a dark room because of the TBI), Elona was surprised to see lights on in Nikita’s ICU room — doctors didn’t know why, but the lights didn’t bother Nikita like they should have.

Over and over Nikita points to prayer for his recovery. “I have a friend, Bogdan Kipko, who’s a pastor in Irvine, California,” he says. “And one day, he just shows up in my hospital room. He hadn’t said a thing to anyone — he just got on a plane to come out and personally pray for me!”

After just two weeks, Nikita was transferred to hospital rehab. And that’s where they hit push back. Looking at his charts, the medical staff declared there was no way Nikita was ready for rehab. His injuries required much more time to heal.

“They couldn’t understand why he was being transferred to them,” Elona says. “They looked at his charts and were very confused, asking how a patient like this could ever be transferred to them — it was way too soon.”

Possibly to prove their point, the rehab staff began running Nikita through the normal tests.

“They were shocked!” Elona says. “He was hitting all the marks — moving and doing all the things required (to enter rehab).”

“And the speech therapist didn’t know what to say either,” Nikita says. “I had perfect memory from prior to the accident, and she didn’t know how that was possible. Most people have no memory at all, but I remembered all the little details. And after that third week, the medical staff in rehab were all amazed — they didn’t know how I was doing it — it was seemingly impossible, but I was doing it.”

Nikita says that he doesn’t remember anything about the accident. However, his memory following the accident started when his father-in-law, Sergey Vedernikov, and the pastor from his church, Nikoli Ilyuk, came and had Communion with him on day 10 of his hospitalization.

And after just three weeks — instead of a minimum of six months — Nikita was released from the hospital, just wearing a neck brace, which Nikita was given permission to remove several weeks ago.

A miracle? No, miracles!

The healing of Nikita’s traumatic brain injury with full memory still has physicians marveling. The C1 could have easily resulted in death or losing all function below his neck, but didn’t. The torn spleen, although easy to overlook, is still a serious injury with potential life-threatening bleeding occurring if left untreated. The baby? Delivered healthy and on time — and a memory Nikita has.

“Elona prayed that I would recover enough that I would be able to remember Ezra’s birth,” Nikita says. “And at 5 a.m. on June 1 they wheeled me into her room in a wheelchair and I was able to be there to watch Ezra be born.”

The business? It has thrived! A friend of Nikita’s, Slav Mikhalets, flew in from Florida with his wife and stayed for two months to keep the business running. “Imagine having a friend like that,” Nikita says in appreciation. Also, Elona’s sister, Liana, stepped in and is currently managing the business.

Other miracles include an atheist friend and his girlfriend who called to tell Nikita how they prayed for his healing, and Nikita also had some Christian friends who weren’t sure about divine healing being for today, but are now convinced it is.

Then there’s a bit of a “shared” miracle. Since his release from the hospital, Nikita had experienced numbness on the left side of his body. Doctors in Springfield had no answers. But a friend referred him to a Ukrainian doctor who just so happened to be in the United States — a refugee from the war in Ukraine.

Nikita contacted the doctor and was able to bring her to Springfield. With just a few days of treatment, Nikita says he has feeling on the left side of his body! But more than that, since coming to the area, the doctor has been a part of others’ lifechanging miracles as well as she’s helped a number of members of the Russian/Ukrainian community with serious health issues that had, until now, been unresolved. Looking at the “coincidental” complexity of a highly skilled refugee Ukrainian doctor being brought to Springfield for what appeared to be one reason, but in fact has resulted in the benefit of many, is mind numbing.

“I look back at everything that has happened, the reasons behind it, and I think of the story of Job,” Nikita says. “At the very end, God speaks to Job, listing off all these things He has created and how Job doesn’t know anything about it all. And God says how He’s doing this all in His wisdom . . . God knows what He’s doing. To me, God is saying, at the end of the day, He’s the one who holds the whole of all things — including me — in His hands.”

Dan Van Veen

Dan Van Veen is news editor of AG News. Prior to transitioning to AG News in 2001, Van Veen served as managing editor of AG U.S. Missions American Horizon magazine for five years. He attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, where he and his wife, Lori, teach preschool Sunday School and 4- and 5-year-old Rainbows boys and girls on Wednesdays.