Real Life Miracle: Polk college student almost burned alive

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Back in 2013, a horrific crash left a Polk County man in death’s icy grip, but he managed to survive.

Forrest Cunningham has a truly inspiring story of how so many things came together to keep him alive.

Forrest graduated as a standout student from Lakeland High School. He was a football and wrestling star and even donned the crown of homecoming king. After graduating, he started taking pre-med college courses.

In 2013 everything changed.

Forrest and two friends were heading home after a weekend music festival near Gainesville. “Five or ten minutes in on Interstate-10, I fell asleep at the wheel, went off road and hit a tree,” Forrest said.

His friends who were driving behind him watched in horror as his car burst into flames.

“I was lucky my window was down, so Tyler reached in and unbuckled my seat belt and they pulled me out of the fire,” Forrest said.

A medical crew happened to be leaving the festival at that moment, and they rushed him to a burn center.

The flames burned 40-percent of his body.

“We were stopped at the door by the doctor, and he said, ‘This is a life or death situation’,” Forrest’s dad Tom Cunningham told WFLA.

“You didn’t know if I was going to make it another hour,” Forrest recalled.

“I remember I said, I think as any parent would, I wish that was me laying in that bed instead of you,” his father said holding back tears.

For a month, everyone waited and prayed as he lay in a medically-induced coma.

News Channel 8 was there as friends organized a massive 5K to help the family.

WFLA asked his father if he thought this was a miracle.

RELATED: How a near-death experience changed my life

“Undoubtedly. Undoubtedly it was. So many things had to go into place at the right time at the exact moment,” he said.

Call it a miracle, or divine intervention, Forrest woke up.

He had more than 20 additional surgeries and spent months going through rehab. Forrest lost all of the fingers on his right hand and had to give up his dreams of becoming a surgeon.

Meeting him you’d never know it.

“To this very day he’s never made one complaint, no matter what his situation was,” said Forrest’s father.

Forrest now works three jobs, in between going to school full-time for business.

He considers it a second chance.

When asked if he believes it was a miracle, Forrest replied, “Oh 100 percent. It is more than 9 out of 10 times. People go, ‘You’re so lucky to be alive’ and I go, ‘No, no, no, that doesn’t touch it, that doesn’t.’ The things that it took for me to stay alive and live through that, were absurd.”


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