In The Blink Of An Eye

As the few who check in here have noticed, I’ve not posted in a while. I had already slowed down as a result of the new day job, but there’s been nothing for a while. There is a reason for that.

This is a post that is hard to write, and it is a post I never expected to write. I am, to put it mildly, glad to be here to write it and have already given thanks many times for the this. That said, life has taken some very unexpected and difficult turns.

Growing up, my Dad and I loved to watch thunderstorms. In particular, I remember sitting with him more than once on the porch of our cabin watching the storms roll down the ridges and mountains. When it got close, we would go inside.

On June 30 at approximately 0445 hours, I was sitting on the covered front porch of the house where I rent a room, drinking coffee and reading the news on my phone. To my north, about a mile to a mile-and-a-half away, a thunderstorm was moving off and I was enjoying watching the light show from what I thought was a safe distance. I was wrong. Turns out, as storms break up lightning can and does hit miles away.

One second I was reading one of my regular reads (Instapundit, I think, not real clear at this point) when a bolt of lightning hit somewhere off to my right. The blinding flash and roar were almost simultaneous, and as I lost sight my body clenched up tight. I distinctly remember having a brief Buckley moment, thinking “This is going to hurt” and wondering if when my eyes opened/worked if I would be looking at Heaven, hell, or other. When my eyes could see again and my body unclenched, I was delighted to see I was still on the porch.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that while the main bolt did indeed miss me, a part of it came over to say hello. While I normally prize manners, I really wish it hadn’t. Not realizing I had been hit, I went inside, gave thanks to God and the Blessed Mother, and went to work. The next day, I did not feel good and despite being light-headed thought I just had a bug. I called my doc and went in to see a nurse practicioner. We talked about the strike, but she admitted it was the first time at that practice they had seen someone who had been so close to a strike and I needed to watch myself carefully. Meantime, some of the symptoms did seem like a bug so we treated it as such. A couple of weeks later, I spent four hours in the ER with cardiac issues including a BP that was well above stroke range.

Since then, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be hit by lightning. Most people (including a number of medical professionals) expect blast trauma and burns. They do happen but from medical papers and other resources, they are not necessarily the most common injuries. Far more common are concussion/TBI-like symptoms on the neurological side, and a variety of cardiac issues ranging from mild to severe. What happens varies widely, as the effect of the strike is much like firing a stun gun into the motherboard of a computer. You don’t know exactly what will happen, but it’s not likely to be good.

In my case, there is no clearly defined entry point. Indeed, it is possible that the charge could have built up by induction; but, there is no way to be sure. By the time we started figuring out what had happened, several weeks had passed. That said, it would appear that it exited out the ball of my right foot.

Many of the short-term effects are being, or have been, dealt with. That said, there remain cardiac issues and neurologic issues. I’m having to have yet more cardiac tests next week, and we have the BP down to more reasonable levels. I was supposed to go to TBI/concussion therapy, but there have been insurance issues so that remains in the future. It also appears I’m going to have to save up for some custom orthotics, which the insurance doesn’t cover.

The long-term prognosis is mixed. Many who are hit go on to have personality changes, problems doing things they’ve done a thousand times, or even to lose the ability to learn new things. I have had both memory and cognitive issues, and while I hope getting into the TBI/concussion therapy will help, there is no way to predict or prevent the emergence of long-term issues. While the day job has been amazingly supportive, I’ve had to miss more work than I care for, especially since I don’t get paid sick days. I’ve also had to drop the number of days I’m working, both because of fatigue/cognitive/other issues and the need to have time to go to the many doctor visits that now fill my life. If anyone cares to hit the tip jar here, it would be appreciated. Even more so as I may find myself having to explore medical disability if we can’t get things improved.

For all that there are no pre-existing conditions or physical damage to the brain, the circuits are scrambled. At this point, I’ve begun to lose confidence that we can unscramble them as the longer it takes to get into the therapy the more likely it is that short-term effects could become permanent and cascade into starting some of the long-term effects. Right now, I’m unsure I could start a new job, as the physical and mental challenges may be beyond my capability.

When I said it was hard to write this post, I meant it on several levels. It is not easy to write about my situation. Worse, it is hard to write cogently. Writing has always been something that flowed easily, which is why I was able to write so many articles about science and high-technology efforts. Writing fiction is not as easy, but I’d like to think I was starting to get the hang of things.

Writing this post has been a challenge. The flow is not there, and finding the right words is a challenge. I’ve already had to go back and fix a few things where I did not have the words right. On a good day, I can write, but it seems I’ve had few of those of late. I’m really hoping this does not take my writing from me, as it has been not just a career for many years, but a release on many levels.

I’ve had challenges before, and I plan to meet this one head-on. This is a very different battle from any I’ve fought before and comes on top of others that have me being advised to move to the desert SW. I had hoped that might happen this winter, but that is now on hold.

I do not know what the future holds. I have Faith. I have friends. There are resources out there I have yet to discover. Even more than hitting the tip jar, I would very much appreciate your prayers and good thoughts. I need all of them I can get.


UPDATE: I am overwhelmed and humbled by the responses to this. Thank you all and I will be responding more soon. Welcome Instapundit readers! It’s been a while since I’ve seen an Installanche take down a site, but I’m seeing it did so last night. 🙂 Thank you all for the support, prayers, and encouragement offered. There truly are not words to describe how grateful I am for all. Bless you.

24 thoughts on “In The Blink Of An Eye”

  1. I read Instapundit every day and that’s how I found your post. I am very sorry for your troubles and you have my prayers for a swift and full recovery.

  2. Hang in there. One thing I’ve discovered over the years is, the injuries that take the longest to come back from are CNS/brain injuries. (You say lightning strikes and concussions have a lot in common – I have experience with concussions, and I also now suspect a lot of cases of prolonged post-covid involve the virus swiss-cheesing autonomous nervous system locations around the olfactory center and requiring similar healing, after 18 months of dealing with mine.)

    First, it’s not true that nerve cells and neurons don’t regenerate at all, but when they do they take a long time. Second, one way your brain heals is by rerouting around damage, and that takes both time and brute repetitive practice. And third, once you have the new pathways established, you still have to reprogram them with whatever the old function was. Chances are any particular function you’re trying to rehab was evolved over a long time to a fairly sophisticated state – again, it’s gonna take time and brute repetitive practice.

    It takes months to years. But stick with it, and one by one you’ll get back things you lost. Progress can be slow enough that sometimes you have to look back half a year to see that you’re not actually getting nowhere.

    Other than that, a stiff daily dose of omega 3 fish oil plus a standard daily dose of creatine seems to help on the organic end of CNS healing, according to various websites. I tried it, it seems to help. YMMV.

    Courage! And good luck.

  3. I’m here via Instapundit. Sorry to hear about your health issues.

    I have a friend who was motoring a sailboat across the lake and got hit perhaps two times. It may have been a close-by hit with the mast, stays, other wiring effective in diverting the worst of the strike. He only remembers waking up, then waking up again. He has had extended health and cardiac issues since then and really got hit with C-19 in spring 2020. So, be watchful of all health issues. BTW, our race committee has a lightning app and at 10 miles, the race is postponed/cancelled. There are few objections.

    Take care and write when you are up to it!

  4. You may have spared me a similar fate as I love to hang out and watch storms on my front porch; although, I live on the high plains and so the wind sooner or later chases me indoors. I will definitely add you to my prayer list for an easier go of things and for recovery back to pre-bolt form! Best of luck to you.

  5. Our thoughts and prayers are with you for a complete recovery. I second the comment about doing your therapy rigorously. Good luck!!

  6. I found you via Instapundit. I have not been hit by lightning but I have had a stroke. Brain and nerve injuries are unique and your experience is your own. That being said, what has helped my rehab is repetition. Anything that is important, repeat, repeat, repeat. If it is too much in total. Repeat by increments. You have to restore your neural pathways and repetition is your friend. Some things did not come back but I learned to work around them. Best wishes for a speedy and full recovery.

  7. The brain is a funny organ when you start banging on it. I’ve watched friends recover from infections, aneurysms, strokes, etc. You have to give it a year, at least, to see how much your brain will bounce back from where it is.

    Full disclosure: sometimes you don’t get everything back. I have a friend who suffered a bout with herpetic encephalitis, and he will never work in a professional capacity again. He’s alive and functional, but he’s different now. He took a frontal/temporal-lobe hit, which creates personality changes. Everything is hilarious to him, and he has ZERO filter, which is why he had to stop working. He’s a genuinely funny guy, and while I find it endearing, potential clients would not.

    Other friends returned to full work: A surgeon with West-Nile encephalitis… fully recovered and back to work. Two other friends with neuropsychiatric changes after aneurysm surgery… fully recovered and back to work.

    You can come out the other side… but you have to give it time.

  8. I’ve had two strokes. I’ve been very lucky; each time, I was able to recover about 90% of what I’d lost. Which still leaves me about 20% below my expected performance. But with patience and practice, much of what you’re having problems with will return. Mostly.

    For verbal issues, I recommend crossword puzzles. (My first stroke was mostly verbal problems; I couldn’t remember specific words.)

    Good luck!

  9. I’m also here from Instapundit.

    I seldom comment on websites but I think I can add to the conversation from personal experience. I surely understand your concerns, perhaps I and other commenters can show you a possible path to recovery and what you may expect during your journey.

    My experiences do not involve lightning, though they could have with several very close strikes. Rather I had a number of serious head injuries over 40 years. I was a logger, and years ago nobody took head injuries seriously… they didn’t routinely take x-rays and just left you to figger out how to get on. It was hard to get on, and once in a while another guy would let on that he too had not “been quite right” since he got nailed by a falling limb. A few left work, just lost it I guess. I got hit hard a bunch of times but somehow just kept going.

    Couple of years ago I had two hits back to back: a hard skull strike on ice, and hit from a white pine limb falling 40 feet and striking butt end first on my skull. Ripped the scalp crossways and cracked the egg. I think these strikes on top of previous injuries came close to terminating my thought processes… I have told people that i used to be able to think in 8-track stereo but as the head injuries accumulated I perceived ideas in monochrome and dimensionally. Flat.

    My experience in general: for a number of months it’s like living in a fog. Focusing is difficult. Words escape you, writing is nearly impossible. Our local doctor told me what function does not return after 3 years is lost forever. You don’t want that… after a few months of letting your brain injury heal… very important to permit/promote healing… then you must retrain your brain. Work at it, constant push to get back what is rightfully yours. Push yourself. Hard. You will know what you are lacking even when people close to you don’t see it. You have to get it back, make it happen.

    Pray. Your spiritual life is unaffected by your injury and is the most important matter to you anyway. Others can pray too, you need Divine help because you have been badly injured. Be sensitive to giving your brain rest during this, even to the point of doing nothing… not even reading. Hard to do but you will learn. Again, I would like to stress the need for periodic rest. It really helped me.

  10. A lot of the exercises/rehab around concussions can be done at home. I would suggest looking them up on YouTube. Getting started before your insurance company coughs up is probably a good idea, given how unknown that particular factor is in your life.

    Good luck. You’ll pull through it.

  11. I also came via Instapundit. And love watching thunderstorms. As a former USAF meteorologist, that comes naturally. I thank you for the warning
    Although I’ve been aware that lightning can strike from ten miles away, I hadn’t realized it could affect one without a direct strike.

  12. Found you through Insta as well. I offer up prayers and wishes for a great recovery. May this come to be another adventure to look back on along your long and healthy life.

    My partner took 2 indirect hits when younger and says he has no lasting effects years later. I concur with much advice mentioned. I will add anti inflammatories to relieve any swelling in the brain if your doc says ok. Turmeric and such are fantastic and safe.

    I was recently diagnosed with something I will not be going into surgery for. Nothing too serious, hip replacement. I am healing myself though. I have read, You Are the Placebo by Dr Joe Dispenza. I recommend highly for a slightly different way of approaching this. Science and belief all wrapped up together.

  13. I’m also part of your Instalanche. It might be worth addressing the TBI aspects of this with a trial of high dose fish oil. I’ve seen it help substantially; also seen it have little to no effect. I have some ideas of why this might be, but it’s cheaper to try the protocol than to do the tests. If it’s going to help, you’ll know within a couple of weeks.

  14. Here via Instapundit… Prayers and good vibes; press onward as it is your only choice :-D.

  15. I read of you on Instapundit and was so moved by your post. Please write when you can. I will pray for you and hope that your healing will come. I am grateful for the opportunity to read your work and count myself among your followers.

  16. Idk why God tests us as He does, each of us according to His will. You will be in my thoughts and prayers, for sure.

    There is a treatment- hyperbaric- or HBOT. Maybe that could be a form of treatment? Also, Burbur Pinella – a tincture. I’m not any type of guru- just an ordinary person- but, sometimes healing is outside of our box of thoughts- and it’s good to share avenues not yet explored- even if not taken.

    My thoughts are w/u and yours- my the Mother’s mantle cover you…

  17. Hugs.
    As someone who recovered from concussion twice and severe, prolonged oxygen deprivation (like extremely low for a month) once… it gets better. Things get easier. The brain actually regrows very fast. (It is now known. They used to think it didn’t. But most recovery issues are “pruning” of regrowth, not regrowth.)
    Of course I’ve never been hit by lightning, so it’s different, but it’s a brain injury nonetheless. Don’t spook at “personality changes.” The personality changes anyway. It’s just …. faster than usual and perhaps in a slightly different direction. Maybe. I still wonder how all of a sudden, I could draw.
    During recovery, finishing 200 words was torture, when I used to be able to write a novel in three days.
    You’ll get through this.
    As for PT, ask your doctor, or have someone research self-administered things that help. One of the reasons I recovered fully from my first concussion (It was misdiagnosed until my eye doctor noticed changes in my eyes a year later) is that I was bored, frustrated and scared I couldn’t work, so I became obsessed with Mahjong in electronic form. Turns out a lot of the PT for an injury in the area where I suffered it would have been memorization of patterns and locations and training of short term memory.
    There are ways to help yourself, and you will recover.
    And again, hugs. Anything that messes with your brain hits at the core of who you are, for people like us, and leave us terrified.

  18. “I have Faith. I have friends”
    Then you are well equipped to deal with whatever comes.
    Good luck! I’ll add my prayers to the others.

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