Fire Chief speaks about reviving woman struck by lightning

Posted at 6:10 PM, Aug 31, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-31 20:10:38-04

LEHI, Utah -- A family birthday party turned into chaos Sunday evening.

“There was people yelling to them, and they went in," said Lehi Fire Battalion Chief Rick Howard, describing the scene when his crew arrived.

Lightning struck a tree in the Lehi home’s backyard. The current hit a woman, Carla Grow, who was standing next to it.

"It struck the tree, but then splashed over as the lightning traveled to ground,” he said, adding that it caused “the ground to be energized which caused her to have her cardiac event."

Battalion Chief Howard said they found the woman unconscious, and not breathing. Her heart wasn’t beating.

"They were able to get her heartbeat back," Howard said.

Now, Grow is in a medically induced coma in the hospital.

While she clings to life, over at the Intermountain Medical Center, critical care doctor Colin Grissom knows emergency crews sometimes can’t revive lightning strike victims at all.

"All that electricity causes the heart to stop, and the respiratory center and the brain stem to cease firing," he explained.

The common cases he’s seen- victims out in the wilderness climbing on a ridge, or out in an open area. But not in their own backyard.

"To be struck near your own home I'd say that's kind of unusual," Dr. Grissom said. Still, it can happen.

"It's all about being in the wrong place at the wrong time or being lucky,” he said.”It's really unpredictable."

And that’s exactly what Battalion Chief Howard said happened to the Lehi woman on Sunday. He said the storm moved in so quickly the family couldn’t see what was coming.

"The family had no idea, one- that one microburst was coming through, and two- that it was going to be producing lightning as it did."

Battalion Chief Howard said other people at the family gathering, including a pregnant woman, went to the hospital to be examined but no one else was injured.