Lightning safety awareness week is June 19th through June 25th; the Grand Rapids Weather Examiner in combination with the National Weather Service will emphasize lightning safety. Each day a different topic will be highlighted.
Sunday – Michigan fast facts
Monday – Lightning overview
Tuesday – The science of lightning
Wednesday –Lightning safety outdoors
Thursday – Lightning safety indoors
Friday – Medical impacts of lightning
Saturday –Survivor stories
Lightning is a major cause of storm related deaths in the US. A lightning strike can result in a cardiac arrest (heart stopping) at the time of the injury, although some victims may appear to have a delayed death a few days later if they are resuscitated but have suffered irreversible brain damage.
According to the NWS Storm Data, over the last 30 years (1981-2010) the U.S. has averaged 55 reported lightning fatalities per year. Only about 10% of people who are struck by lightning are killed, leaving 90% with various degrees of disability.
See the a few news stories about West Michigan lightning injuries below.
Just this year on April 26, several were injured in Portage. See the news story here: Storm Damage, Lightning Strike
Also this year, a man is struck while holding an umbrella. Oceana Co. man survives lightning strike
Several years ago construction workers were hit. Lightning strikes at Ferris; 4 hurt
What Are the Medical Symptoms?
Immediate symptoms of Lightning Injury:Most victims experience only some of the symptoms below.
- Short-term memory
- Problems coding new information and accessing old information
- Problems Multitasking
- Slower reaction time
- Personality change
- Intense headaches
- Ringing in the ears
- Nausea and vomiting and other post-concussion types of symptoms
- Difficulty sleeping, sometimes sleeping excessively at first and then only two or three hours at a time
- Seizure-like activity
- Pain from back injury or headaches
- Personality Changes/Self-Isolation
- Irritability and embarrassment because they can’t remember people, job responsibilities and key information
- Difficulty carrying on a conversation
Friends, family and co-workers who see the same external person, may not understand why the survivor is so different. Friends soon stop coming by or asking them to participate in activities. Families who are not committed to each other break up.
There are two kinds of medical tests:
- Anatomic tests take an x-ray, CT scan and MRIs or blood count measurement. These tests often come back normal
- Functional tests show how something is working and are more useful: PET scan, neuropsychological testing
Help Exists for Victims
An organization of tremendous help to survivors, families, physicians and other professionals is Lightning Strike and Electric Shock Survivors, International (LSESSI), a support group formed in 1989 by a lightning victim. LSESSI has printed materials, offers tremendous support, networks survivors with others in their area, and provides an annual meeting where survivors come together for support and lectures from professionals who work with lightning and electrical survivors and their families. LSESSI can be reached at 910-346-4708, [email protected], or see their Website at http://www.lightning-strike.org/, or at P.O. Box 1156, Jacksonville, NC 28541-1156.
Four Factors Necessary for Recovery
The four most important factors in overcoming disability from lightning injury, or from any illness or major injury for that matter are:
- Having a supportive family/friends network.
- Becoming your own advocate and learning as much as you can about this disability.
- Finding a physician willing to listen, read, learn and work with the survivor and their family.
- Having a sense of humor.
This factsheet courtesy Dr. Mary Ann Cooper– Associate Professor, Departments of Emergency Medicine and Bioengineering University of Illinois at Chicago
Tomorrow is Survivor stories.
For more info: Lightning Safety
Severe Weather 101 – Thunderstorm and lightning safety rules
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