As the storm approaches from a distance there is talk of delaying the swim meet. We are all disappointed. Do we really need to follow the ten-minute rule? Delay the meet because of a distant rumble of thunder? It seems so far away. It hardly seems a threat. As the sky grows darker I watch the clouds approach from the far end of the lake. A giant bolt of lightning, way on the other side of the lake lights up the sky.
Orion, my little three-year-old, asks to go home. “It’s OK, RyRy. Don’t worry” I say. A few minutes later there is another huge bolt of lightning, closer this time but still at the far end of the lake. Orion becomes more insistent. “Go home Daddy, go home!” he pleads with me. It is getting darker and the clouds fill the sky. The meet is delayed again and I decide to take Orion to the car. I climb the hill to the car. I set Orion down in the street next to the car in order to unlock and open the door. I pick him up and place him on the front seat. Leaving the door ajar I go around to the back of the car to load the trunk.
As I begin to load the car there is an incredible explosion and searing flash of white light. It is as if a bomb has gone off. There is no warning, no thunder, no flashes, just a huge, blinding white explosion. And then it starts. I am being electrocuted. My feet and legs begin to vibrate. My whole body goes rigid. And the sound! A roaring buzz fills my body as the electricity climbs up through me into my chest and arms. I feel completely helpless. The ground is alive with current that is killing me. I can’t move. I can’t run. There is no place to go. I cannot escape. I feel my feet vibrating in my sandals as the lightning comes up out of the street and climbs over the rubber soles into my legs. It is the most excruciating pain I have ever experienced. Every muscle in my body tenses and cramps. Like thousands of Charlie horses all at once. I am convulsing. My car keys fly out of my hands, my hat pops off my head, and my glasses are blown off my face.
I think to myself “Will it ever stop?” I rage against the relentless charge of energy invading my body. “NO! Get out of my body!” I scream in my mind, as I fight with all my strength. I grow weaker as I bounce rigidly, upright on the pavement.
It feels like an eternity, I wonder if it will ever end. Will it stop or will I die? I don’t know which will come first. Then stiff, like a statue, I am thrown backwards. There is no way to brace myself from the fall. My muscles don’t respond. It is all happening too fast anyway. I feel my head bouncing on the street as I am thrown down. The pain of my head hitting the pavement is nothing compared to the searing pain of my convulsing body. Later, eye witnesses say I actually flew about six feet in the air like a missile.
Then the rain begins. A few big drops at first. Then torrents of rain mixed with hail beat down. Later some called it a white out. Everything seems to be in slow motion. People are walking to their cars stunned by the blast, checking to see if their children are alright. I feel invisible. “They don’t know I just got hit by lightning. They don’t know I am dying.” Then I try to move but can’t. One arm moves slightly. There is no response in my Legs. Some parts of me are numb and some are in intense pain.
I moan at first, my body still jerking. The moans grow into howls and then, at last, words form and I scream for help. A figure comes toward me reaching out. “Don’t touch him” someone shouts, and he runs away for fear of being electrocuted by me. I still can’t move. Then another person approaches. He checks me as I lay in the street near the storm drain. Someone brings a blanket. Others try to call for help but their cell phones don’t work because of the intensity of the storm.
My mind is rushing. What about Orion? Check Orion!” My legs won’t move. And my arm, it doesn’t work either. Oh God, what is happening? The rain is heavy now. I am getting wetter and wetter.
Thank God I got Orion in the car just seconds before the explosion. I am too wet and the water in the street is getting deeper and deeper. With help I sit up but am unable to stand. Nicole and I are carried to the car, out of the rain, at last. We wait for help. The police arrive soon after the calls are made but the ambulance is taking forever to get here.
I am crying and in shock. All I can do is cry and thank I am alive. Still waiting for the ambulance. I am starting to feel my body again. Now my head hurts as the bump swells. The cop is sitting in the front seat, drenched through, taking names and addresses for his report. He goes out into the rain again to get me an ice pack for my head.
After 45 minutes the ambulances finally arrive. They do their triage and put me in one ambulances and take Orion in the other.
The road to the local hospital is closed as some trees, felled by the storm, block the way. They take an alternate route to a small country hospital in Warwick, NY.
During the ride, I find I can move my arm again. What a relief. And the feeling in my legs begins to return. I’ll be able to walk!
I am taken into the ER. My chest is shaved and electrodes are attached for the EKG. They take blood and urine too. I am in shock. I move between sobbing and laughing, cracking morbid jokes and thanking God. I’m walking around with a blanket over my shoulders saying I’m the savior.
What the hell is happening to me? Why is it happening? Will I ever be the same again? What are the effects of being hit by lightning? Am I ok? Am I alive? Finally I am reunited with Orion. He saw it all happen but he was not electrocuted. The tears flow. Orion is alive!
The doctor is explaining that the lightning can make my heart beat irregularly or make it stop. He also says it drives certain elements out of the muscles causing muscle damage and possibly overloading the kidneys. My IV is about done and now they want to do another. I just want to go home.
It’s so rare for someone to survive being struck by lightning. They don’t know what to do with me so they decide to discharge me. The television news teams are waiting outside the hospital. I make the evening news and the front page of most of the newspapers.
Dazed and confused I return to the sight of the lightning strike to retrieve the car. I realize I am in no shape to drive and have friends to take me home.
The next day I realize that I am in pretty bad shape. I am still in shock and sore everywhere. It is hard to move. It feels like I ran a marathon and then got run over by a steam roller.
I call my insurance company to report the emergency room visit and they insist I go back to a different hospital immediately. “You never should have been released! Your heart can stop at any time in the first twenty-four hours after being hit by lightning.” If my health insurance company is insisting I go back to the emergency room immediately I know I am in rough shape. Three doctors and two emergency medical clinics refuse to see me. They just don’t know what to do for lightning strike victims. Finally, a hospital with a doctor who has treated lightning cases agrees to admit me and off I go for more tests.
It has been days since I was discharged. The initial injuries are healing but I am noticing other long term affects. My upper back is constantly in pain. I have substantial short term memory loss. I forget what I am doing, people’s names even where I am and how to get home. I stop to put gas in the car and wonder why the tank is already full. My son reminds me that I just stopped a few minutes earlier and filled it up. I have no memory of doing it.
I am much more sensitive to storms and to electricity in general. I am even scared to open the refrigerator door or to turn on a lamp. Hours before a storm arrives I can feel it in my legs. They hurt like they did the day after the lightning.
Weeks have passed. My energy level is still frustratingly low and the memory loss is frightening. So many questions arise. I’m trying so hard to get back to normal these days. But, do I really want normal? What is normal anyway? Was I ever normal? What do I want this life to be? I almost lost this life.
Will this unique opportunity to make more conscious, perhaps even divinely inspired choices about how I live this new life fade? Will I fall into the same old routines? Or, will I make the most of this bizarre experience? Will I in some profound way, be guided to be or do something exceptional?
Some say I was touched by God. Others say devils were after me. Some call it a shamanic initiation. Some say it is God whacking you up the side of your head. I refuse to live my life in fear. Something deep inside me knows that some “good” will come of this. Although it is a traumatic experience it isn’t a disaster. No life was lost. Except for a few burns I am not outwardly wounded or scarred. I don’t even glow in the dark! I know something is different. I feel transformed. But, I don’t know what it is yet. Will I write a book, develop some extra sensory perception, become a great healer or just be a little nutty?
“He is a changed man since he was struck by lightning” they say. But, what has changed? How has a brush with death changed me? Can I ever be the same again? Do I want to be the same? Promising myself I will change is a far cry from being changed. And that raises an important question. Did I choose this? Was it chosen for me? What am I supposed to get out of all this? These are questions I lived with each day following the lightning strike and near death experience.
Knowing the possible long term effects of trauma held in the body, I began to searching for ways to release the fear and pain that I carried from the experience. Hearing of a somatic healing workshop being offered by David Quigley, I signed up hoping to have the opportunity to release as much of the trauma as possible.
During this intensive weekend, each attendee had the chance to have an individual session with David facilitating and the group supporting the process. I couldn’t wait to do the work and was one of the first to volunteer for a session.
As I got comfortable on the pad on the floor, David began to gently regress me to the event. The first image that came was one that has been recurrent since the lightning strike. For me that image was the doorway to the past and the healing that I sought. I saw myself setting Orion down in the street next to the car, opening the door and placing him on the front seat. With this image comes the realization that had he stood in that spot a few seconds longer, he would have been killed by the lightning strike. I thank God every day that I got him into the car that, although he witnessed the whole event, he was safe and unhurt.
It was this image that began the process of reliving the entire event in very slow motion. David, supported by the whole group, skillfully guided me to the moment the lightning entered my body. By going through the event again, this time in very slow motion I was able to feel and process what had taken a fraction of a second, over a period of about three hours.
As I regressed further my feet began to tingle and then they started to shake. Slowly at first and then more and more violently. The shaking slowly rose up my legs following the same course the lightning had traveled. Ten or fifteen minutes into the regression my legs shook harder and faster than I could have possibly moved them if I had tried. People in the group were amazed and a little scared too. As the shaking rose up into my hips and back, my whole body began to convulse. My body undulated on the floor in wave after wave of release. Each wave bringing more memories of the terrible pain I had experienced. Each wave releasing more of the trauma held in the muscles and nerves.
I remembered that as I was being electrocuted by the lightning it ran through my body in waves. Each pulsation bringing me closer to death. At this point, David encouraged me to welcome the lightning into my body. I thought he must be crazy or perhaps even cruel. But, as I had fought the lightning with all of my strength when I was hit, much of the energy and trauma was stuck in my body. It became clear to me during this process that the back pain I was experiencing was connected to the tremendous unprocessed energy that had become lodged in my back. So, letting go and letting that tremendous force pass through me was just what I needed to do.
As I stopped fighting and “welcomed” the lightning into me, my body began to relax. The violent shaking and convulsing gradually subsided. And then came death. I remembered the few moments my heart had stopped and I was “dead.” Supported by the group I curled up into a ball and went into the fetal position lying on my back. Everything grew dark and I entered that great void, that “nothing” place people report in their near death experiences. I remembered screaming “NO!” I don’t know how much choice I had in the matter but as far as I was concerned, there was no way that I was ready to die yet.
From that very quiet and peaceful void, I heard David quietly guiding me to ask, “Why? Why had this happened? What was I to learn from it?” And, in that moment knew that it was because I was loved. “Loved? This is how you love me? What kind of love is that?” I thought. But then I felt it, that indescribable, unconditional love that is limitless, bathing me.
And the other message that came to me was, “Listen. Listen to spirit, meditate, turn inward and listen. Spirit speaks to you constantly, all you need to do is listen. Listen with your heart. Listen with your body. Use your wonderful mind but listen to spirit.”
Flooded with love for all that I am and all that I have done to help others I began my return journey back into my body. I came back to life. New, fresh, reborn, I came back, slowly uncurling. Opening up. Becoming aware of my surroundings, almost three hours had passed since the beginning of my regression. I felt completely transformed. Like a baby starting over. I was blessed with the chance to do it again, in a new and better way.
As I opened my eyes I was greeted lovingly by the entire group. “Welcome back!” No one could believe what they had just witnessed. I was speechless. David suggested we go outside to feel the earth and see the sky. I was helped outside and knew I had to take my socks off to feel the earth beneath my feet. It was like feeling the earth for the first time in my life.
As the group made a circle around me to offer a group hug, the sun, which had been hidden in grey skies all day, burst forth and shone so brightly through the autumn leaves blessing this profound moment. I looked up to see the most brilliant light I have ever seen as an electric angel appeared to remind me of the power I had been instilled with as a result of this incredible experience. It reminded me to share the power in this experience with others. It showed me that I was now charged with healing energy and encouraged me to let it flow through me into the other members of the intensive. As I opened my arms to share the energy everyone in the group felt waves of energy pass through them. What a healing. What a transformation! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.