DUNDEE, IL—Amid the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, sometimes there's a little miracle in store for all of us.

And that miracle was more or less what Dundee resident Herb Fosbeck received this past Christmas, when the 38-year-old survived a near-fatal session of oxygen-deprived masturbation.

"The doctors told me I'm lucky to be alive," said Fosbeck, who almost suffocated to death after tying a belt to the base of his showerhead, wrapping the leather strap around his throat, and cutting off his body's circulation in order to heighten climax.

Added Fosbeck, "Somebody up there must sort of like me."

At first glance, the overweight and single Fosbeck might not seem like the kind of character you'd normally see in a heartwarming Christmas tale. And, basically, he isn't, because this is not exactly that type of story. On the other hand, Fosbeck did learn something about the true spirit of the season, albeit in a rather disturbing way. And he didn't die. So if you think about the whole thing with that in mind, it's almost hopeful.

"This is what Christmas is all about, I guess," said police investigator Randy Haverscham, who, along with two other officers and several neighbors, discovered Fosbeck's unconscious body after responding to complaints of a loud crash. "Not really. But still."

A time for hearths, mistletoe, and sharing cider with those you love, Christmas largely passed the solitary Fosbeck by. Not invited to any festive get-togethers, and with no one to curl up with save the hollow-eyed actresses in his vast pornography collection, the middle-aged man's yuletide plans were limited to the fleeting satisfaction of choking himself while tugging weakly at his swollen member.

As Fosbeck slung the restrictive strap over his head, doing his best to ignore the sounds of carolers outside his open window, did he perhaps think he'd finally hit bottom? We can only assume so. But that turned out not to be the case because, right in the middle of furiously pumping his erection, he slipped in his bathtub, and suddenly found himself spasmodically dangling from his homemade noose.

"I remember putting the belt around my neck, and I guess I must have gotten pretty excited and started moving around too much, because the next thing I knew I was strangling to death," said Fosbeck, who was released from Dundee General Hospital's intensive care ward on Jan. 1. "I don't remember much after that."

Indeed, few could predict that Fosbeck was only moments away from getting the biggest Christmas gift of all. At least, in a just-barely-not-dying-while-tethered-to-a-bathroom-fixture sort of way.

Using his last gasps of air to scream out for help, the flailing unemployed carpenter suddenly heard in the background the faint jingling of Christmas bells. Was it the arrival of a guardian angel, coming to rescue Fosbeck? Or was it simply an auditory hallucination caused by the lack of oxygen to his brain? We may never know.

One thing, however, remains clear. With a sudden jolt, Fosbeck's showerhead ripped clear from the cheap plaster of his bathroom wall, sending the unconscious loner plummeting free, naked as the baby Jesus.

"He was still tumescent when we found him," said neighbor Bob Ngyuen, who followed police into Fosbeck's apartment. "We put a towel over him before we called the paramedics, just to give him the slightest shred of dignity. It was Christmas, after all."

And if that wasn't enough of a semi-miracle, or miracle-ish thing, or whatever you want to call it, when Fosbeck finally awoke in the hospital, his mother, whom he hadn't seen in four years, was standing over him, re-united with her estranged son on Christmas night.

"The police said I had to come, because they legally can't release a patient with potential brain damage unless they're with a relative or somebody to make sure they get home okay," Elaine Fosbeck, 70, told reporters using her electronic larynx. "Herb was always a disappointment, even as a child."

As Fosbeck looked into the face of his elderly, alcoholic mother, he uttered a familiar phrase, one often used to close holiday stories such as these.

"God bless us, every one," Fosbeck said. "All two of us. Not counting the nurse, who I didn't know."