Lightning can strike in an instant.
“I don’t remember anything again until I woke up in the hospital at Vanderbilt after my first epilepsy attack,” said Amanda Vernon.
Amanda Vernon was struck by lightning at only 5 years old. It was a nightmare for her mother, Lauren Pendergrass, to witness.
“I heard a terrible clap of thunder. Hollered out…’girls come in!’ They all came in. Amanda said ‘Mamma, I left my shoes.’ She took off on the sidewalk…I called out ‘hurry!’ Immediately she lit up….she just lit up,” said Pendergrass
On a bright sunny day, Amanda had decided to try on a new gift from her grandmother.
“She had new jelly shoes, she took off the raincoats and went to play,” said Pendergrass.
Amanda left her shoes in the yard and ran out to get them. While running home, it was too late.
“I had ran the length of the yard. I was home, I was right there,” said Vernon.
“She was there. There was a step about that high, very small step, she just stepped off of that and then the lightning struck,” said Pendergrass.
Amanda was immediately rushed to Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She came back the same day with burns only to her finger and toenails.
“She came back that day we thought everything was fine. But that night we noticed little glimpses of her memory fade,” said Pendergrass.
Dr. Callie Thompson at Vanderbilt has dealt with patients being electrocuted but says each case is different.
“Peripheral nervous system impairment, you can have seizures, cognitive effects, which is hard to quantify for folks. Then you can see the psychiatric components like depression, acute stress disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Dr. Thompson.
One major effect could be the use of your brain.
“While you are in the hospital it may seem fine, you are not identifying these cognitive deficits, like balancing a checkbook. But once they go home, and they use come complex reasoning or complex math…there is a hole in there that never use to be there,” said Dr. Thompson.
“No one really knew I was having seizures. I would have them when I would sleep. It was wiping my memory clean. I would forget and go back to school. They would ask questions and I would not even remember any of it,” said Vernon.
In 2018, Tennessee had the most fatalities in the country due to lightning strikes. That’s why at Two Rivers Park in Nashville there are signs that say, “When thunder roars, go indoors.” If you hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning.
In Amanda’s case, she is lucky to be alive. Not only is she doing well, she has a new outlook on storm safety.
“If you are outside, be aware of your surroundings. If you notice a bunch of dark clouds, or the sun disappears or even if you hear thunder. It’s better to be safe than sorry and get somewhere safe,” said Vernon.
If you take the proper care, you and your family can be as safe as possible too.