This is long, but it needs to be to explain what happened to my son~
I’m pretty sure by now that you all know that my son was the boy that
everyone saw all over the country on the news and as far away as London in the paper there that got hit in the head by lightning. This is his story….
Well anyone that knows me could honestly say that I have had what could only be described as a shit-tastic last two years, but what I have gone through in the last 5 days definitely takes the cake as far as what anyone could ever imagine being thrust from hell could be like.
On June 3, 2009 I was out with my daughter shopping for a new swimsuit for the annual school swim trip. We were in the dressing room trying on what seemed like a million suits when I hear my ex-husband come running through the store screaming for me “Nanc, Nanc, hurry up. Austin’s been in an accident!!!” I was freaked and asked what happened and he said “He was hit by lightning”.
Okay, this is about the time that my heart stopped and time just felt like it stood still but at the same time was passing by at an alarming rate. I could NOT believe what I had just heard. My daughter and I just looked at each other in horror as she whipped off the swimsuit she had just put on and threw her clothes on and we ran out of the store.
My son was at the school down in La Pine, Oregon and we were up in Bend about 25 miles away, so we made it to the hospital before they did. The whole time all I could think of was my son got hit by lightning. Does this REALLY happen, I mean you hear about that kind of thing happening to OTHER people but to us? Then I kept hearing stuff like “when they put him in the ambulance” it was they way they said it and the looks on their faces, I was so terrified. I was just screaming hysterically asking if my baby was alive. Nobody knew anything yet.
When Airlife got to the hospital, my ex-husband went out to greet them because I could not move. The nurses would not let me go anyway, incase the news was not good. When I finally got to see him, my God, he looked so tiny and frail. I can’t even describe what I was looking at; he was so pale and was convulsing with burns and tubes all over the place. It was so bad they would not let his sister go back and see him even though her dad wanted her to in case he did not live through this. I agreed with the hospital staff, if it scared me that bad, I was not about to let my 11 year old daughter deal with that.
My 19 year old son Derrick came up and we got to go in and see him all the while talking to him. I hear that talking to someone in a coma tends to help and sometimes they can hear you. I wanted him to know we were there.
We also received all kinds of information that night that was completely wrong but scared the crap out of me and I am so glad that whoever got this one wrong did. I was told that the burns on his legs went from his thighs all the way down to his feet and had discolored his legs completely. We were also told they didn’t know if he would have full use of his legs or because the burns were from the inside out that he might even be able to keep his legs. I was too afraid to look at them that night.
We were informed that they would have to life flight him to Legacy Emanuel burn center in Portland because there was nothing that they could do for him at St. Charles. Due to my hysteria and panic attacks I told my husband to ride along with them in the plane. I didn’t think it would be good for him or the crew to have to deal with me in such a tense situation.
I drove with my close friend and daughter to Portland and got there about 1:30 AM and I was able to see Austin who actually looked a little better already even though he was still intubated and was in a medically induced coma. The nurses said they were going to bring him out of the coma at 8:30 am and told me to go get some sleep.
I went to my sister in laws and tried my hardest to get sleep but only slept for about 2 hours if it could even qualify as sleep. I kept thinking I would “wake up” and this would be some terrible nightmare, but it wasn’t. At about 7am I got a text saying Austin was awake already and he had spoken. We got dressed and got to the hospital as quickly as possible.
When I went into the PICU room it was like I was looking at a completely
different child than the night before. He had color and just looked much more alive and for the first time I wasn’t scared. Austin was barely awake when I sat down next to his bed and let him know I was there. I put my hand in his and he squeezed it. I instantly started crying with relief.
At this time they had already taken the breathing tube out so he could kind of speak. I asked if he wanted me to stay or if he wanted to see other family (there were tons of people there) and he wouldn’t let go of me. I promised I would not leave him. I basically sat there the whole day just holding his hand or at least I tried to until my soon to be ex-husband came and bitched me out telling me I could not monopolize our son and needed to leave so his family could be in with him.
I told him that I had made a promise to Austin that I didn’t want to break and he started getting ugly so poor Austin had to say “mom, just go” so Chuck would shut up. You know it’s pretty sad when your son who almost died has to be put in the position of stopping something like that. I was honoring a promise and that’s all. As it turns out, each time a family member came in Chuck was in there with them, so I am not sure why I couldn’t have stayed with him, but whatever.
So they decided to move Austin out of the ICU and into a private room quite soon because he was doing so well. His burns were healing very fast and he had been up walking, even though it was just a few feet, hey, he was still walking. His brain function was completely normal and for being struck by lightning in the head this is nothing short of a miracle.
By the time he was in his private room I decided that it would be better to be close to the hospital so I got a room a block away so I could just walk back and forth. When I came in the room at one time I finally got to see the extent of his leg burns. He has a burn on his right thigh and the worst is the burn on the back of his right ankle where the lightning left his body. That burn is maybe 3” tall by 2” wide. I mean ANY burn is bad, don’t get me wrong, but compared to what they had told me at St. Charles? Please, this was nothing and I am so glad!!
They say because of how well and fast he is healing there is a good chance he will not need skin grafts for the ankle burn, which is the worst. He does have a burn and blistering from the side of his face (not too noticeable there) down his neck onto his chest where apparently the lightning went in and part of it went out of his body (ironically it sort of looks like a lightning bolt). We have no idea at this point how much of this will fade or how much will still show after time. The other things that Austin is suffering from are a perforated eardrum which I understand will heal and he has tremors. We do not know if this will be permanent. It is like he is being shocked all of the time, he has them especially when he sleeps. He says he feels like he has the electricity in him still sometimes and I guess time will tell if that will go away.
The paramedic who was first on the scene called me today, to check on Austin. He spoke with me at length to tell me exactly what had happened and I was completely shocked to find out that regardless of what the papers say, my son was basically dead upon arrival and had to be revived immediately or he would not have survived. He was extremely lucky in so many ways. You see our tiny little town only has two fire/rescue trucks and one was on a call and the other had just received another call. They were in the bay getting ready to leave when they got the call for Austin. The school is less than 4 blocks away and due to the severity of the situation they took Austin’s call first. I owe everything to the La Pine Fire Rescue team because without them it wouldn’t matter how many prayers and good wishes were sent out, or how fast he was able to heal. My son would be dead and I would have been planning his funeral and not watching a miracle happen in front of my eyes.
So I suppose this is where everyone is wondering how or why this all
happened, because it is not everyday you hear about someone getting struck by lightning and/or living to tell about it. We had been having wicked storms all week but the day this happened they were particularly bad. They say there were approximately 3400 strikes that day in central Oregon. Austin had stayed after school to watch a basketball game and at some point the lights went out in the gym. Some of the boys went out the doors to check out the storm and someone told Austin not to go out past the doors. He said “what’s the worst that can happen, I could get hit by lightning” and he went out across the parking lot. That’s all he remembers but the kids saw him get hit and go down. They said it was like he was having seizures as he was being electrocuted and when it was over and they rushed to him; everyone was afraid to touch him in case they would get electrocuted too.
The lightning had melted his shoe to his foot and basically blew his hoodie apart melting his zipper together causing the paramedics to have to cut it off his body to treat him. Apparently Austin had a hole in the bottom of his shoe which actually more than likely saved his life. It gave the lightning a place to get out, because the rubber could have held the current in long enough to kill him. When they arrived Austin had his eyes open, no heartbeat, he was not breathing. Upon administering oxygen the medics were able to revive him and keep him breathing long enough to get him to the landing pad for the Airlife chopper to take over. At that point they were trying to intubate when the pilot said they had a one minute window or they would not be able to transport so they put him in the chopper and took him to the hospital. By the time he got to the hospital he had the breathing tube in, so I assume they did that on the way in the helicopter.
I am still feeling disbelief over this whole thing and can’t understand how
something like this happens to someone that you know and love. The saying “this will never happen to me” is something that people take for granted and need to think about seriously because it CAN HAPPEN TO YOU. We just happened to find out the hard way.
I don’t know what people who read this blog believe in but after everything I have been through and how many times my life has been spared in the last two years and now this, I have no other choice to believe there is a divine power looking after my family and for whatever reason we seem to start with the short end of the stick and we always seem to win in the end. I don’t know what my purpose in life is supposed to be but I do know that I will never take one moment in life for granted because it is just too short and can be taken from you or worse yet someone you love more than life can be taken from you in a split second.
Peace love and happiness ~ Nan
* Austin is absolutely perfect and out of all his injuries, none of which were shown here due to the severity of them, he only has one tiny little mark on his chest and a small scar where the lightning left his body in his heel. Personality and brain function wise, he is perfect and just started his freshman year of high school!!