The Difficulty of Finding Medical Help for Survivors Who Have Been Struck by Lightning

“Finding a doctor who knows anything about a lightning strike is next to impossible,” says Tamara Pandolph-Peary, 46, who was struck by lightning in August 2010, in the parking lot of the Springfield, Illinois, Men’s Warehouse where she worked.

Following her accident, Pandolph-Peary forgot how to use everyday objects, like a potato peeler; she could no longer get from point A to point B in her hometown; she suffered migraines and fatigue; she tripped over her sentences or suddenly lost the ability to understand what other people were saying; she was often dizzy and off-balance; she had tremors and chronic pain, and would unpredictably lose control of various body parts; and every now and then, when her nerves were on fire, even the slightest touch was painfully intense.

“I struggled with the ‘Why me?’ initially,” she says. “There was a time I was angry. There was a time I really missed who I used to be. I think I got past that part. You can be angry and hold onto that, and it can ruin everything you have left.”

— In Outside magazine, Ferris Jabr talks to people who have been struck by lightning and what life has been like for them since (roughly 90 percent of people who are stuck by lightning survive). Few survivors find adequate medical help since the occurrence is rare and doctors don’t know much about how lightning strikes alter the brain’s circuitry.

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Photo: Oregon Department of Transportation