BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Robert Brown, 67, is at home with his family after spending three nights in the hospital at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. He was discharged early Friday afternoon.
"He's a Christmas miracle. He's our hope," said Kathy Brown, Robert's wife. "He's been saved for a reason, and I think (it's) so that he can tell his story."
Brown was fishing at Lockwood Folly Inlet in his kayak Tuesday afternoon when swift currents and waves caused his kayak to fill with water, forcing him into the cold water.
He said he tried to swim and stay afloat for about three hours before resting and deciding to wait for the tide to turn.
"Physically, I had nothing left to give," Brown said. "And from what I know about hypothermia, I estimated I would have about an hour."
Wearing his life jacket, Brown managed to sit in his kayak, which was submerged in cold water, and said a prayer before slipping into unconsciousness.
At about 5:30 p.m., two fishermen, Don Robinson and Anthony Rhodes, were preparing to head back to shore at dusk when boaters waved them down for immediate help.
"They said there was a body floating in the water," Rhodes said.
It was Brown's body.
"As we approached him, I thought he was dead," Rhodes said.
The pair reached the unconscious kayaker and Robinson pulled him into their boat.
"He opened his eyes and had kind of like a seizure, and I was like, 'Oh god.' It was very surreal at that point," Robinson said.
They called 911 and met emergency crews on the shore, including Coastline Volunteer Rescue Squad.
"He was very hypothermic and in serious condition," Coastline's David Robinson said.
After being rushed to the hospital, Brown was placed on life support.
The next day, he woke up.
"I don't remember anything until I woke up the next morning in the hospital," Brown said. "They called me a miracle man."
Three days of recovery later, Brown went home to his wife, daughter, and grandchildren. Doctors told him he made a full recovery, and told him only to follow up with his primary care physician.
Ironically, Brown worked for more than 20 years as a firefighter and rescue diver. In 2001, he was named the James M. Mansen Structural Firefighter of the year for heroism in North Carolina.