GALESBURG -- One hunter's trip into the timber nearly ended his life.
There was a moment a few weeks ago when Kenneth Swanson thought he'd never be back at church.
But as he slowly walks in, with a cane and what he calls his turtle shell, he said he is truly thankful to be alive.
On November 17, the avid deer hunter took a routine trip into the timber, but things turned tragic while he was bringing back his buck.
It was dark when Swanson was leaving a wooded area on his ATV. He was looking for a break in the fence to exit, when he realized there was no hole, he panicked.
Swanson said, "The ATV shot straight up in the air and came down and landed on top of me. I thought at the moment I was dead."
Despite his best efforts, he couldn't lift the ATV off his body. Swanson fractured his spine and severely dislocated his hip.
He knew he only had a short time before his injuries would disable him. "I knew I had five minutes before the pain set in. And I grabbed the cell phone I keep on the string around my neck and I called 911."
Swanson laid there for what he said felt like a lifetime. But in reality, an hour and half later, volunteer firefighters and EMTs arrived.
Swanson was then sent to OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, a hospital he said saved his life. "I thought my life was gone and they came in and told me I could do therapy and it felt like God came in and gave me my life back."
Swanson is recovering faster than expected. He said that's a bonus, since he has a very important role to play this time of year.
"Adults tell me, do you play Santa? No, I do not play Santa, I am Santa," he laughs.
It's a role that is fitting for a man at the center of what he calls, a medical miracle.
Swanson was expected to spend ten weeks in the hospital.
The 74-year-old spent just 20 days.
He said he will never again get on an ATV, but he hopes to one day get back to hunting.