**Warning: Most of you will find this boring because it is long, so you might not want to bother if you have a very short attention span.
Bohank's blog on "wedding vows" has prompted this one for me to write. I said a few things about what I'm going through with my husband and working out with him, but I realized most would be confused about it. Near the end, though, there is a link to a fantastic organization that could help someone you know. So if you don't care about the blog, at least check out the link.
To the majority of people, this may seem like a very strange thing to post about because it hasn't had an effect on their lives. Not many people have to live with someone who has survived a lightning strike or major electical shock. But it changes the lives of not only the survivor, but their family and friends as well.
I'm the wife of a lightning strike survivor. About a year ago, my husband was serving his tour in Iraq. He is a weatherman, and he saw a nasty storm that was suddenly building up. He hurried as quickly as he could to the ATC tower to tell them to get all their birds (helicopters) on the ground because a major electrical storm was about to hit. He was leaving the building, about to run down the stairs to get back to his own office to send out more weather advisories when a bolt hit mere feet away from him.
Most people know that lightning is powerful- millions of volts, countless amps- but they don't really know how to put this in context. My husband was not directly hit. The bolt hit an antena a few feet away from him. The power of this strike knocked him down, and also knocked him unconcious. He didn't know at the time, but it had given him a pretty bad concussion. His brain is still not fully healed. He spent another six month in Iraq with no real medical treatment for this.
When he came back to the US, I noticed many changes in him, things that happened after the lightning. He was suffering from many different things. The first that he was able to really notice was the tinnitus (tinnitus is characterized by major chronic ringing in the ears and also has to do with hearing loss), and I noticed after he got home by the fact that he was constantly asking me to repeat myself.
The strike also affected many things in his brain. His newest doctor (we're really happy with this new guys and all the wonderful information he's given us) gave us this to think about: if you break your leg, you have it in a cast for six weeks, and as long as you don't damage it more during that time, you'll be out of it. The brain is not the same. It takes an entire month for ONE MILLIMETER of brain tissue to heal, and you're about as healed as you're going to get by a year and a half. (Needless to say, my husband doesn't have much more time before his brain is as healed as it will ever get). He now suffers from chronic headaches. He has a medication to take every night to prevent him from waking up in the morning with a headache, one for a sudden occuring headache, and another for migraines (which occur quite often). He also has to log his headaches by day, severity and duration.
It also screwed up his balance. Something in his inner ear was greatly damaged. He cannot close his eyes and stand up straight. He falls over. Motions like swinging make him ill. That's right, he can't even swing with his little girl. In addition, it has tweaked something else in his brain. When he sleeps now, he twitches and jerks like a bunny on crystal meth. He did a sleep study because they thought he might be having seizures in his sleep- luckily he wasn't. But they counted 63 limb movements in a 6 hour period, which is very abnormal. We still don't know why it happens, but it affects us both in our sleep- try sleeping with a man that's unconciously poking and kicking you, it's not easy.
It also messed with brain chemistry. He suffers from anxiety now. It has led to an increase in drinking to try to calm himself. We both knew it was a problem, and he's finally been medicated for it, and his drinking has gone way down again.
But none of these compare to the worst that has happened to him. My husband, a man of 24, is now having to take a medication that is usually prescribed to Alzheimer's patients because he has no short term memory. He can't even remember what we ate for dinner last night, even though he's the one that cooked it. He will ask me the same question three times in twenty minutes because he doesn't remember me answering him already. He is only 24 years old, and he has the memory of a 70 year old man with Alzheimer's.
These are just a few of the things that can happen to those who experience lightning strikes or electical shocks. Some don't even survive.
But there is some hope and help out there.
This organization was started by a lightning strike survivor, and is completely run by survivors. The membership for survivors is free, but family of survivors (if they want to become a member) have to pay an anual membership fee ($25 to $35). They do research using data collected by members to try to learn more about what major electic shocks effect the human body. They have a lot of information, conferences for survivors, support, newsletters and many other great things. They are based in Jacksonville, NC (North Carolina is #2 in the nation for lightning strikes, right behind Florida), but you can be a member from anywhere. This is a great resource for anyone who has survived electric shock or lightning strikes, or if you've known someone.
Please spread the word of this awesome organization!