Severely burned pastor credits prayer for speedy recovery

April 4, 2012 3:15:00 PM PDT
A suburban pastor recovering from severe burns prepares to deliver his first holiday sermon since the accident that injured him.

David Sitler, the pastor at two suburban churches, was in a foreign country doing what he felt was God's work only to suffer life threatening burns on his face and upper body. But this man of faith says he never lost his. He's still battling his injuries, but Sitler considers himself lucky.

"It was probably the worst, painful experience that I've had in all my life," he told ABC7. "It's been a process. It's been a journey."

It happened the day after Christmas in Nicaragua while Sitler and his family were on a mission trip to help orphans. While carrying a pot of boiling water to be used to wash dishes, Sitler fell and suffered third-degree burns.

"I looked at my arm and saw it blistering up," he said. "And that's when I panicked."

"I just started screaming, and the first thing I started screaming was, 'Oh dear God, help him, Jesus, have mercy,'" his wife, Cinda Lea Sitler, said.

The closest hospital was a two-hour drive away and after arriving, it was clear he needed advanced care.

More than two days after being burned, Sitler was airlifted to Loyola's burn unit. The time that had passed increased his risk of infection.

"When we have patients who come from other parts of the world and come back to us, they bring bacteria that have resistance to the antibiotics we use," said Dr. Richard Gamelli, director, Loyola University Burn Center.

Before surgery, Sitler had to endure a week of agonizing skin treatments.

"I couldn't deal with it by myself," he said. "Sometimes I would even pray, Lord, help them not to come today to take me or help them to be a shorter session."

But soon, friends and parishioners from the two churches where he's a pastor joined his family in prayer every day at the hospital.

"It was just this outpouring of support," his wife said. "People we hardly knew brought us things."

"The nurses noticed a difference, if they took me after I had my devotional time, my prayer time, I did much better during the session," said Sitler.

Remarkably, the initial prognosis of two months in intensive care became two weeks.

Sitler has returned to his congregation and has a special sermon prepared for this Easter weekend.

What will be in his heart?

"Hope in the midst of whatever we face now," he said. "And hope for the future."

Sitler still has a year or more of recovery ahead of him. But he is expected to regain full motion in his right arm. The Sitlers want to return to Nicaragua next Christmas to finish the job they weren't able to complete.