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posted by azrael on Monday September 29 2014, @01:17AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the what-happens-if-it-strikes-twice dept.

Ferris Jabr writes in Outside Magazine that every year, more than 500 Americans are struck by lightning. Roughly 90 percent of them will survive but those that survive will be instantly, fundamentally altered in ways that still leave scientists scratching their heads.

For example Michael Utley was a successful stockbroker who often went skiing and windsurfing before he was struck by lightning. Today, at 62, he lives on disability insurance. “I don’t work. I can’t work. My memory’s fried, and I don’t have energy like I used to. I aged 30 years in a second. I walk and talk and play golf—but I still fall down. I’m in pain most of the time. I can’t walk 100 yards without stopping. I look like a drunk.”

Lightning also dramatically altered Utley's personality. “It made me a mean, ornery son of a bitch. I’m short-tempered. Nothing is fun anymore. I am just not the same person my wife married." Utley created a website devoted to educating people about preventing lightning injury and started regularly speaking at schools and doing guest spots on televised weather reports.

Mary Ann Cooper, professor emerita at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is one of the few medical doctors who have attempted to investigate how lightning alters the brain’s circuitry. According to Cooper the evidence suggests that lightning injuries are, for the most part, injuries to the brain, the nervous system, and the muscles.

Lightning can ravage or kill cells, but it can also leave a trail of much subtler damage and Cooper and other researchers speculate that chronic issues are the result of lightning scrambling each individual survivor’s unique internal circuitry. "Those who attempt to return to work often find they are unable to carry out their former functions and after a few weeks, when coworkers get weary of 'covering' for them, they either are put on disability (if they are lucky) or fired," writes Cooper. "Survivors often find themselves isolated because friends, family and physicians do not recognize their disability or feel they are 'faking'. (PDF)"

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 29 2014, @01:26AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 29 2014, @01:26AM (#99415)

    Not "Lightening"

    • (Score: 2, Funny) by Buck Feta on Monday September 29 2014, @01:34AM

      by Buck Feta (958) on Monday September 29 2014, @01:34AM (#99419) Journal

      Lightnin' Pickens, the blind bluesman from the delta. I guess it's a better name than Two Shoes [youtube.com].

      --
      - fractious political commentary goes here -
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 29 2014, @01:35AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 29 2014, @01:35AM (#99421)

      Well it appears the /. editors noticed the mispelling.

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by fishybell on Monday September 29 2014, @01:38AM

        by fishybell (3156) Subscriber Badge on Monday September 29 2014, @01:38AM (#99423)

        Well it appears the /. editors noticed the mispelling.

        You appear to be lost.

        • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Monday September 29 2014, @04:25AM

          by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Monday September 29 2014, @04:25AM (#99459) Journal
          Or maybe it is just that the same article has also been posted on the poison-green site (given the habits of Hugh Pickens to post on both) and their editors caught the typos?
          (not being the AC you alleged as being lost, I don't know for sure).
          --
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
  • (Score: 2) by Subsentient on Monday September 29 2014, @01:41AM

    by Subsentient (1111) on Monday September 29 2014, @01:41AM (#99426) Homepage Journal

    I have nothing but compassion for that man. God bless him.

    --
    Trying is the first step towards failure. -The Click
  • (Score: 2) by EvilJim on Monday September 29 2014, @01:57AM

    by EvilJim (2501) on Monday September 29 2014, @01:57AM (#99429) Journal

    I wonder if this is a similar result to sensitive electronics being zapped with static? does it create short circuits with tiny carbon traces?

  • (Score: 4, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 29 2014, @02:35AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 29 2014, @02:35AM (#99436)

    ...killed himself 'over an unrequited love'.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Sullivan [wikipedia.org]

    He got 'hit' indirectly as a child when lightning struck the metal blade of the scythe he was holding without being injured. 'But because he could not prove the fact later, he never claimed it.'
    (Bottom of the 'Seven strikes' section of the Wikipedia article.)

    I STILL remember the picture of him holding his blackened ranger hat in an old copy of the GUINNESS BOOK OF WORLD RECORDS that I used to have many years ago.

  • (Score: 2) by TheLink on Monday September 29 2014, @03:38AM

    by TheLink (332) on Monday September 29 2014, @03:38AM (#99445) Journal
    • (Score: 1) by dpp on Monday September 29 2014, @06:58PM

      by dpp (3579) on Monday September 29 2014, @06:58PM (#99726)

      That article mentions a few cases where lightning apparently healed/benefit people with various ailments.

      Re: a personal interest - nerve damage
      I have a spinal injury, medically induced (doctors damaged/severed nerves in my spine during a discectomy ), recovery from which was described as possibly taking many years.
      The nerves recover slowly (those not completely severed), hence the - possibly many years. Early on I'd play with placing a tens unit below the near damage area and use it to "fire" muscles which my brain could get the signal to.
      Condition only improved for a couple of years, no changes/improvement in the last 15yrs.

      I've read up on different approaches beyond - "wait & see what you wind up with".
      One method was using tissue, I believe young cells/tissue (say from deceased infants) where it was place "over" the damaged area, where this affective bridges the area & the brain begins send new/additional signals below that area.

      Now... the lightning story.
      I read of a few cases where people with long-term nerve damage were struck by lightning (some otherwise electrocuted), who after the strike wound up having sensation in the area previously "dead". After therapy and such, functionality was returned to parts of the body long since unused.
      Theories -
      The brain holds a "map" of how/where signals are sent. The electrocution overloads the brain and "wipes' the map (resets it).
      Then when the brain starts going back & using the default (cached/original?) map, and bumps into signals not getting through, it winds up trying different routes, some being ones which weren't "tried" previously, and the signal get routed around the defective paths.

      Anyhow....long story, but I personally was very intrigued by the idea. I have a tremendous amount of use in the area below where the nerve damage occurred (leg), such that it wouldn't take but another perhaps 30-40% of the originally affected signal to re-route/re-activate to have near full functionality.

      I'll not going off chasing storms with a lightning rod any time soon....however, perhaps once day science will understand the safe+possibly therapeutic levels and be able to use electricity in a medical procedure.

  • (Score: 2) by tonyPick on Monday September 29 2014, @06:26AM

    by tonyPick (1237) on Monday September 29 2014, @06:26AM (#99482) Homepage Journal

    You know, it's genuinely horrific that something so random, so undeserved, can be so debilitating.

    But somewhere inside my head every time I read the title and get to "can Alter Body's Circuitry" then I keep thinking "if they grow angry or outraged, does a startling metamorphosis occur?".

    I'm beginning to suspect I may not be a nice person.

    (Yes, I know it was *chemistry*, but still it trips something in my memory)

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Techlectica on Monday September 29 2014, @06:35AM

    by Techlectica (2126) on Monday September 29 2014, @06:35AM (#99485)

    ..may be due to damage to some parts of the brain, but it could also be due to the chronic pain. Chronic pain releases a lot of stress hormones, which can trigger a low-level fight of light response. It probably has a lot to do with the stereotype of grumpy old men as older people are more likely to suffer chronic pain from a body that's had a lot of abuse piled on over decades.

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 29 2014, @03:12PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 29 2014, @03:12PM (#99613)

      I met a guy in his 40s. He lived in a nursing home. Was a poll worker. Struck.

      He spent the remainder of his years in a bed screaming every 20 mins because of the agonizing pain and couldnt put two words together.

      So yeah being struck can really change you.

      The screaming to this day stuck with me. He never stopped screaming. The nurses put him as far away from the other patients just so they could get some sleep. It was truly sad. I have not been back there in 25 years. But I would bet he is still screaming. He never stopped in the 4 or so years I visited my grandma.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 30 2014, @08:21PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 30 2014, @08:21PM (#100110)

        Cured or gone. 25 years is a very long time. Got more than a decade with a nearly painless debilitating illness. Thought I wouldn't last past 5.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 29 2014, @07:21PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 29 2014, @07:21PM (#99734)

      a low-level fight of light response

      A what?

      • (Score: 1) by Techlectica on Saturday October 11 2014, @06:48AM

        by Techlectica (2126) on Saturday October 11 2014, @06:48AM (#104704)

        Sorry typo. I meant to write: a low-level fight or flight response.

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by kaszz on Monday September 29 2014, @03:41PM

    by kaszz (4211) on Monday September 29 2014, @03:41PM (#99631) Journal

    Some bits from the article:
    “Electron Paramagnetic Resonance Spectroscopic Evidence of Increased Free Radical Generation and Selective Damage to Skeletal Muscle Following Lightning Injury.”

    (picture of Lichtenburg figure [tumblr.com])

    Cooper found statistically significant differences in brain activity between lightning-strike victims and healthy people as they performed mental-aptitude tests inside the scanner.

    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s first official lightning-safety awareness week [noaa.gov]

    https://struckbylightning.org/ [struckbylightning.org]

    Seems that the lightning alters the fundamental workings or interconnectivity of the nerve network. And perhaps thats where one could find some answers. Perhaps TCDS [wikipedia.org], MRI magnets etc.. could give a hint as to how to correct these conditions?

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by NeoNormal on Monday September 29 2014, @04:05PM

    by NeoNormal (2516) on Monday September 29 2014, @04:05PM (#99652)

    My mother's father lived to be 93. When he worked for the railroad in his earlier years he was hit by lightning twice. I didn't know him before the strikes, but when I did know him, he was a wired up old dude. Filled with nervous energy. He was also rather ornery, but I'm not sure if that was from the lightning or genetic.