Teen struck by lightning saved by bystander CPR

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LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Florida is known as the lightning capital, where strikes can be especially dangerous during the summer months.

Sixteen-year-old Joseph Thompson was struck by lightning Monday while mowing the lawn at his Lynn Haven home.

Now, he's still in critical condition, but according to doctors at Bay Medical Sacred Heart, it was CPR from a bystander that saved his life.

"He came in with what we call return of spontaneous circulation and has done very well so far, but it's a very devastating injury to have," Emergency Room Medical Director Dr. Doug Scott said.

Thompson's family sent us a statement saying "No one expects an accident like this to happen, but it could happen to anyone at any time. We are so grateful that we live in a community where everyone is so willing to help and are appreciative for the wonderful care that our son has received. The outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming. Please continue to keep Joseph and our entire family in your thoughts and prayers as he continues in his recovery."

While he is expected to make a full recovery, doctors say that's not always the case.

"There's a number of strikes, a couple hundred strikes a year and 30 to 40 deaths a year from lightning strikes in the United States. Florida is actually very high incidence of lightning strikes. I think it's one of the highest in the united states," Scott said.

Lightning can strike as far as ten miles away from where thunder is heard and a direct strike will cause immediate cardiac arrest.

"The electricity is such a high voltage it does two things: it flashes over your body, called a flash-over, which causes specific burns to the skin and then it's conducted, it likes water, that's how electricity likes to be conducted and it'll be conducted through the blood vessels which can cause severe burns to the blood vessels in your body," Scott explained.

Those burns often lead to nerve damage or death, but full recoveries are possible, especially if there is someone who can start CPR immediately.

"The longer you go without CPR, the longer you're not profusing your brain and your vital organs," Scott said.

To avoid getting struck by lightning, it's important to remember: when thunder roars, go indoors.