Monday, February 25, 2013

Overcoming a Long Term Lightning Injury


   Close friends of ours know that one of our sons was struck by lightning, within one of our steel roofed farm outbuildings, about a year and a half ago.  It was within a few weeks of the 2011  5.8 earthquake, and we had a number of particularly bad rapidly occurring  thunderstorms with lightning at that time.  We also lost some old oak trees to lightning then also. The lightning strike event with our son, is the precipitating event for our blog series on lightning protection for houses, barns, and trees, and for our eventual hiring of a lightning abatement company, which we also discussed as a blog post.   I had asked our son to go down to one of the outbuildings and unplug one of the pieces of equipment there, in advance of a coming thunderstorm.  I told him the storm was coming in quickly.   He headed down there, and we all thought he had done this, and then returned to the house. My husband was taking care of animals in a large barn, also in advance of the storm, and when the storm rolled in very quickly, he was stuck in the barn for its duration.  The thunder and lightning were far worse than usual. I remember being up at the house and I remember that my heart was beating quickly.  There was lots of cloud to ground lightning and I hoped my husband would be safe in the barn.   My husband watched outside from the barn, and I watched from the house, as we saw a large bolt of lightning, hit the building where our son had unplugged the equipment.  I thought, "it's a good thing our son unplugged everything", and my husband thought, "It's a good thing no one was in that building !"   Just then, as quickly as the storm rolled in, it rolled out.  I wandered down to the barn and the outbuilding that had been struck to see if there had been any damage and to check on my husband.   While my husband asked me if I had seen the lightning strike of the far building, one of the garage styled doors opened, and it was our son who exited steaming ! He had been in the building when it was struck by lightning !   Actually, the entire inside of the wooden structure was steaming.  I started asking him why he hadn't gotten back to the house, and it appeared he couldn't hear me.  When he saw us, he told us that he couldn't hear, except for ringing in his ears, which he attributed to the loud crack and bang when the lightning hit the building he was in. Later we learned that he had come down to the building to unplug a few things, and that the storm blew in so quickly he was unable to walk back in time. He thought he would be safe remaining in the building.   After the strike he was as amused as anything else. I took his pulse, which was regular, and I called his doctor, who was unimpressed.  A glancing blow from lightning with a patient with a normal pulse probably means he is fine, and the hearing will come back.   The following day we noticed that our son's arms were burned as if he had received a bad sunburn.  He related that when he was stuck in the building he noted a loud bang and a bright flash.  He surmised that lightning had struck the steel roof of the building, and had grounded through the structures wooden beams which were copper arsenate treated.  He received a glancing blow from a lightning strike and believed himself to be very lucky.  A couple of days after, his arms were better and he went on a trip which had long been  prearranged, with a friend to Washington DC.  They walked a fair bit while they were there, and other than being a little tired, he seemed okay.  On his return, he complained of leg pain which he attributed to "walking a lot in DC".   This did not improve.  In fact, it worsened.  It took us a little time to equate the leg pain to the lightning strike, but eventually we did.  The year and a half which followed have consisted of severe leg pain with tremulous motion in the musculature in the legs which the neurologist calls fasciculations. Then, there were EMGs.   There is no evidence of any other neuromuscular disorder in play here. Numerous physicians feel that this leg pain and fine tremor syndrome relate directly to the lightning strike itself.   Over time, the pain and tremors have moved up the trunk and afflicted the arms occasionally also.  Our son's life at this point, centers on taking numerous medications for this, and seeing neurologists, his primary physician, and an anesthesiologist who specializes in pain management, who is known as an algiatrist.

               There is an entire medical specialty devoted to those who have been struck by lightning. It's called keraumomedicine.   Being struck by lightning isn't nearly as rare as I had once believed.  Many people each year, in Virginia and in other states and around the world are struck.  Statistically, 10% of them are killed, but many of them sustain injuries, which are occasionally permanent ones.

                  A percentage of those with lightning injuries may exhibit similar symptoms secondary to such a major assault on their nervous systems.  Many of them cannot fall asleep or stay asleep for very long.  Some of them have permanent eye or ear damage. Some have paralysis, and many suffer Depression. Some have some defects in cognition.   Some have memory deficits. Some have seizures. You can access additional information on lightning strike symptoms and additional treatment information by clicking this link in blue.

                 Our son's primary issue since the lightning strike has been difficulty sleeping, pain in his legs and fine involuntary muscular twitches, which contribute to his leg pain.  This has been severely limiting for him and has not yet responded very well to the pain management strategies from the algiatrist.

                  This week he began receiving acupuncture with a certified physician acupuncturist, and for several days he noticed an improvement.  The process involved the insertion of gold alloy pins into very carefully selected areas of one of his ears.  This type of acupuncture is known as auricular acupuncture.

I would have believed that this was largely placebo effect, but after the treatment, my son went to sleep in the car for an hour as I drove, something I don't think he has ever done.

                   Apparently, in auricular acupuncture, present day physicians and licensed practitioners use the auricle or outer ear for both the detection and treatment of certain medical issues. This is actually an ancient Chinese practice, but it was refined and expanded upon in the 1950s by Dr. Paul Nogier of Lyon, in France. This is a fairly safe and fairly non-invasive way to treat everything from pain, to addictions, hypertension to infertility using the ear as virtually a miniature map of the human body.  Certainly, this procedure takes experience, skill, and expertise, because ears are not standard, and because there is variability in them.  For most things, either ear can be used, but for the liver and the gallbladder, practitioners say that they can only use the right ear.   I would like to have thought all of this was hooey, except that it has been more successful in the last three days, than Vicodin, so this nurse is having her horizons expanded.  This is information on Auricular Acupuncture from the National Institute of Health.

The process was very interesting, and made me wonder why this wasn't attempted first.

                  Today, my son had the second acupuncture treatment.  Interestingly, of all the medications and the TENs unit  the neurologist, the pain management physician, and his primary physician tried, I think the acupuncture was most effective.  It's still early in the course with this, but I wanted to let friends know about auricular acupuncture, what to expect, and that it is, or can be effective.

Our prior series on the various aspects of Lightning Abatement can be found at:

On pain management following lightning strike or pain management for chronic pain of other causes:

On lightning injuries which occur more commonly than people realize:

On the necessity for protecting key trees from lightning strikes on farms, fields or other properties:

Our experience in hiring a top lightning abatement contractor for our farm and its outbuildings.

A discussion of the hazards of lightning.

Information on auricular acupuncture:


lotta joy said...

Your life appears to be a series of catastrophes, one after another, and I am amazed at your tenacity. I am so saddened and full of admiration at the same time.

JaneofVirginia said...

Lotta Joy, I am thinking of changing my name to "Catastrophe Jane". It might be a nice touch on my next book ! Seriously though, it has been feeling that way for awhile. Alas, it's not just me, two of my close friends have similar luck to mine. If anyone asks, we are distant acquaintances.........RUN, save yourself !!