What It Feels Like to Be Struck by Lightning

By: Candice Sorensen Email
By: Candice Sorensen Email

(MSN) By Max Dearing, 42, sound engineer, as told to Daniel Torday

"I have a degree in electronics, so I know about the destructive power of high-voltage energy, but this was beyond what I could have imagined. I was struck on a typical North Carolina July afternoon — little billowy clouds floating by, mostly sunny.

I was out golfing in Durham with four of my coworkers on a Friday afternoon. We were on the fifth hole when it started to sprinkle. We decided to get under a shelter and wait it out. We were standing there, just kind of harassing each other the way we always did, just talking junk. I remember the air had a sweet ozone smell to it. That's about the last thing I recall before the strike.

When the bolt hit, I was absolutely frozen, just as cold as I've ever been in my entire life, but then part of me was incredibly hot, too. I saw these red flashing lights, and I kept thinking, It's a fire truck! A fire truck! as if I were a little kid. Then there was the most incredible noise I'd ever heard. The sound was so loud that I honestly couldn't hear anything. Evidently, it's so loud that it blows the cilia in the ear completely flat.

I felt as if I'd been slammed between two Dumpsters. It was like every case of the flu you've ever had, at one time. My arms and my legs and my hands all felt as if they weighed five thousand pounds. Every bit of my body was just in absolute pain. It was such a dull ache, and so sharp at the same time; it was like everything from a migraine headache to a hangover to needles being stuck in every millimeter of your body. My hair hurt, my eyelashes hurt; I could feel it when my hair moved, when the wind blew across me.

The lightning bolt had gone down along a tree next to us, taken off some branches on its way down, and then hit the overhang of the shelter, putting a huge hole in it. Then it went through Terry, one of my buddies. He was struck through the top of his head, and it came out his knee. It killed him immediately. Then it shot up from the ground and hit the rest of us. It went up through me and left an exit wound in my head that needed eight staples.

Now I have a hard time with addition and subtraction. I can handle some fairly complex math involving trigonometry and calculus, but don't ask me to add. The doctors say, 'Oh, there's nothing wrong with you.' But I know there is. Figuring out how to fix it, that's about like shooting mosquitoes with a shotgun."


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