Janesville man still in critical condition after suspected lightning strike

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Jake Magee
Wednesday, July 2, 2014

JANESVILLE—A Janesville man believed to have been struck by lightning Monday remained in critical condition at Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center on Wednesday, hospital spokeswoman Trish Skram said.

Witnesses saw Gaylin Edwards exit his vehicle at about 5:15 p.m. Monday on Highway 14 near Interstate 90/39 before collapsing with a head injury after a lightning strike, according to fire department reports.

Edwards left his vehicle to fix his windshield wipers during the storm, shift commander Scott Running said.

An off-duty nurse and two Paratech Ambulance Service employees who were a few vehicles behind Edwards performed CPR until fire department paramedics arrived.

It's not confirmed why Edwards collapsed, but all signs point to a lightning strike.

“He had singed chest hair, so there was electrical contact either with his vehicle or lightning,” Running said. “Water and electricity don't mix.”

The chance of being struck by lightning is one in 500,000, and only about 10 percent of lightning strike victims die from their injuries, said Dr. Jay MacNeal, EMS medical director at Mercy.

Those who survive can suffer from burns, seizures, muscle cramps and memory loss, he said.

More than 140 Americans have died so far this year from lightning strikes, so it's important to practice safety in a thunderstorm, MacNeal said.

“If you are caught outside and you feel a lighting strike is imminent, the best thing is to squat down and minimize contact with the ground and cover your ears,” he said.

MacNeal warned not to lie down because that provides lightning a greater chance of hitting you. Electricity can travel up to 100 feet from where lightning strikes, he said.

Leaving the safety of your car, a Edwards did, is dangerous, Running said.

“Stay in your vehicles or otherwise seek shelter like you would for a tornado,” he said.

MacNeal agreed, saying strong winds or even tornadoes often follow lightning.

Running recommended avoiding contact with metal or tall objects that increase the chance of being struck during a storm.

“You don't want to stand under trees or by windows,” MacNeal said. “Anything that conducts electricity, you don't want it.”

Last updated: 4:07 pm Wednesday, July 2, 2014

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