Lightning: The Reality for Lightning Strike Victims

Many lightning strike victims survive, but their lives are changed forever.


A Lightning Strike Changes Lives Forever

In the United States, each year, lightning kills an average of 51 people and injures more than 204 people based on the last ten years of documented cases. While any death is tragic and also devastating to the family, injuries can be equally tragic and even more devastating to the family.

Potential long-term problems include:

  1. Problems coding new information and accessing old information
  2. Problems multitasking
  3. Slower reaction time
  4. Distractibility
  5. Irritability and personality change
  6. Inattentiveness or forgetfulness
  7. Headaches which do not resolve with usual OTC medication
  8. Chronic pain from nerve injury
  9. Ringing in the ears and dizziness or balance problems
  10. Difficulty sleeping, sometimes sleeping excessively at first and later only two to three hours at a time

For those who have a relative that suffers a significant disability from lightning, life changes forever. In addition to the physical pain and mental anguish suffered by the victim and the victim's family, the incident may lead to a loss of income for the family. Over time, medical expenses for treatment may drain the family's assets.

If someone is struck by lightning, it is important that they receive the appropriate medical attention immediately. Some deaths can be prevented if the victims are attended to promptly. Lightning victims do not carry an electrical charge and are safe to handle.

First, have someone call 9-1-1 or your local ambulance service. Check to see that the victim is breathing and has a pulse, and continue to monitor the victim until help arrives. Cardiac arrest is the immediate cause of death in lightning fatalities. If necessary, begin cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED).

Also, if possible, move the victim to a safer place. Don't let the rescuers become lightning victims. Lightning can strike the same place twice.

Physically, only few lightning strike victims actually suffer burns. Due to the conductivity of the human body, lightning burns are usually minor, and most lightning burns are caused when objects next to the body (such as necklaces, rings, or metal coins) are heated by the lightning. In addition, sweat, vaporized by lightning, can also cause burns.

Mentally, lightning strike victims may face many challenges that they'll have to live with for the rest of their lives. When the brain is affected by a lightning strike, the person often has difficulty with many of the mental processes that most people take for granted. The person may suffer from short-term memory loss, and may have difficulty mentally storing new information and accessing old information. Victims may often find it very difficult to carry on more than one task at a time, and may be easily distracted. Their personality may change and they may become easily irritated.

Victims often complain of becoming easily fatigued and may become exhausted after only a few hours work. This may be because mental tasks that were once automatic may now require intense concentration to accomplish. Although some victims may sleep excessively at first, after a few weeks, many find it difficult to sleep more than two or three hours at a time.

Another common long-term problem for survivors is pain. Medically, pain is difficult to quantify. Lightning strike victims often suffer irreparable nerve damage from which they will suffer for the rest of their lives. The pain can be so intense that it affects the person's ability to function. Many survivors complain of chronic headaches, some of which are very intense and debilitating.

It is important to remember that, while many lightning victims survive, their lives are changed forever, and their dreams for the future and those of their family will never be the same.

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