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Bob Lind column: Neighbors: All the way back: Detroit Lakes man savors new lease on life after near-drowning

While the construction business gave Lyle Hanson a decent living, it left him far short of attaining millionaire status. Yet, there he was, placing an auction bid of -- whoa! -- $37.5 million. And what he was bidding on was only $250 in cash. Doe...

While the construction business gave Lyle Hanson a decent living, it left him far short of attaining millionaire status.

Yet, there he was, placing an auction bid of -- whoa! -- $37.5 million. And what he was bidding on was only $250 in cash.

Does something seem a little out of kilter here?

Well, OK, here's the deal. Lyle was bidding in The Forum's "Millionaire Auction" promotion, using "Luther Bucks" clipped from the paper worth (for the auction), $5,000 each.

Several prizes were offered on which readers could bid. Lyle opted for $250 in cash, placed his whopping bid and won.

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Did Lyle blow the money on something for himself or for his house in north Fargo where he and his wife Delores live?

No. He sent it to Papua New Guinea. That's where the Hansons' daughter Kay Hughes and her husband Tim live. It's also where Lyle almost drowned eight years ago.

Living on faith

Lyle, 77, and Delores are both from Detroit Lakes, Minn. Lyle and his brother started Hanson Brothers Construction in Fargo in 1950. Lyle says he's built more than 400 houses, primarily in Fargo-Moorhead, along with some apartment and commercial buildings.

They attend Calvary Baptist Church, Fargo. It was there that Kay met Tim, from Kansas City, Mo., who was attending Dakota Aero-Tech School in Fargo. They married, had two children and joined New Tribes Mission, a non-denominational Christian evangelical ministry to people around the world.

They have been in Papua New Guinea since 1988. Tim is chief engineer for the mission's aviation department there, overseeing the maintenance of several planes and a helicopter. Kay works in the aviation department office.

It's a faith ministry; they trust God to lead people to support them in prayer and in finances. "They get no guaranteed salary," Delores says. "They're responsible for everything, too: their retirement, taxes, transportation, everything. But the Lord has blessed their ministry; He has provided. The first years were tough, but it's gotten better."

The Hansons, naturally, are among those who support Tim and Kay.

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When The Forum's Millionaire Auction contest came along, Lyle started clipping, even though initially he wasn't sure which prize he'd bid on. Then he decided to go for the cash, planning to send it to Kay and Tim if he won it.

"I had fun clipping," Lyle says. "When you start clipping, you get addicted," his wife says.

The Hansons mailed the money to them before Christmas. "You know $250 doesn't go far on the mission field," Delores says, "but it was a little extra Christmas gift."

Tim and Kay have two children, both of whom grew up in Papua New Guinea. Today Jenny is married and teaches in Dayton, Tenn., and her brother Jason, 18, is about to graduate from New Tribes Mission Academy in Papua New Guinea.

Lyle and Delores have visited their family there twice, in 1990 and 1995. Lyle, ever the carpenter, did what he does best both times. He framed up a house for the family on the first trip and put finishing touches on it the second.

It was on that 1995 trip that he almost lost his life.

Circle of prayer

Taking a break one morning, Lyle, Tim and some other men went snorkeling to see the gorgeous underwater scenery. Lyle, then 69, wasn't a great swimmer and had never snorkeled, but he was willing to give it a shot.

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The men were having a fine time, until someone noticed he couldn't see Lyle's snorkel. The men searched frantically. They found him lying in 3½ feet of water.

He wasn't breathing, the men couldn't find a pulse, his eyes were fixed. They slapped his back to dislodge water. They did CPR. A group of teenage Christian Papua New Guineans who were swimming nearby made a circle around Lyle and the men and prayed.

Finally, Lyle took a shallow breath. He was alive, but not really responding.

The men got him to a hospital, where a doctor said Lyle had to be airlifted to Australia to be properly treated.

By the time a medical evacuation (medevac) jet had flown Lyle and his family to Cairns, Australia, 12 hours had elapsed since he had been found in the water.

The doctors weren't optimistic. Learning Lyle had probably been in the water without oxygen for about five minutes and maybe longer, they feared brain damage.

His family was earnestly in prayer. But it seemed to be of no avail. Lyle was having great difficulties. A medical team performed a tracheotomy. Still, it didn't look good.

"The doctors had me all prepared," Delores says, "that he was coming home with severe disabilities or maybe dead."

The doctors were wrong. Gradually, Lyle improved. Gradually, he was able to get up, walk, talk.

A doctor asked Delores if he was acting and thinking normally. Delores said he appeared to be normal to her, and she ought to know: "I've lived with him for 48 years," she said.

This, the doctors said, was "a very incredible case."

But not to the Hansons. "It was miracle," Delores says. "I know God spared him because He had something for him to do yet."

"I didn't have time to die," Lyle says with a smile.

A new mission

Lyle is putting his miraculously extended life to good use. He's retired, but he's still doing repair jobs, particularly for widows.

"When you build 400 houses, you meet a lot of people, and they remember you and call up and ask me to do some repair job for them," he says. "I don't charge them much; maybe $10 or so. But often they add extra money on the check and tell me to send it to Kay."

Another thing: The husband of Delores' sister in Detroit Lakes is partially paralyzed from a stroke, and this sister's son died recently at age 47. Thankfully, Lyle and Delores are there to assist this family. God, Delores says, saw this coming, too, when He spared Lyle.

Lyle doesn't remember being in the water, the medevac flight, the days in ICU. The first thing he remembers is waking up in the hospital and seeing the Australian Open golf tournament on TV. Australian golf star Greg Norman was playing. "I liked Greg Norman," Lyle, an occasional golfer, says. "I can't remember that experience in the water, but I can remember the shots he made that day."

Kay has written a pamphlet giving the details of her dad's brush with death, and giving flat-out thanks to the Lord for bringing him through it without any physical or mental complications. "I can't read it (Kay's story) without getting tears in my eyes," Lyle says.

Delores seconds Kay's thoughts, adding she's also grateful that Blue Cross covered every dime of their medical expenses, including the medevac flight.

But then, she adds, the cost was nothing compared to what it would have been in the United States because of the exchange rate.

"The medevac flight was $12,000; it would have been lots more here. But listen to this: Lyle spent 12 days in ICU. That, plus all doctor bills, medicine, everything, totaled $4,000 in U.S. money.

"When I heard that, I wanted to give them a check and get out of there before they changed their minds."

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to (701) 241-5487; or e-mail rlind@forumcomm.com

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