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Teen faces long recovery after being struck by lightning

Posted at 9:56 PM, Jul 03, 2024

SALT LAKE CITY — One of the teens hospitalized last week after a lightning strike in Sevier County is now back home.

15-year-old Kaileigh Saling was part of the youth group participating in a hike Thursday as part of the trek with the Saline Stake in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

"We all started on our walk, and it was pouring very, very hard," Kaileigh said. "We could hear thunder and see lightning, but it was coming down super hard."

That's when lightning hit nearby.

"The person on the other side of the person in the middle of us who was holding an umbrella and so we kind of think that the umbrella kind of attracted the lightning and the lightning either went into the umbrella or near the umbrella," Kaileigh said.

50 kids reported feeling the shock from the lightning strike. Kaileigh believes she and another person got the brunt of it.

"It just felt weird like my body was tingling and it felt really, really weird and so it felt like I was being coddled and held on this cloud and it was just like, I was in mid-air and then I like kind of passed out," Kaileigh said.

She told FOX 13 News on Wednesday that she came to within a minute.

"Somebody lifted my head and it felt like all these like bricks and this gravity just pounded on top of me," Kaileigh said.

Kaileigh says she was taken by ambulance to a parking lot in Salina. It was there she was airlifted to Primary Children's Hospital in Lehi.

She said doctors there examined her to make sure she didn't have any exit or enter wounds from the lightning. She says she was ultimately taken to the hospitals campus in Salt Lake.

"She has nerve damage on the right side of her body, so her arm and leg tingle or are numb or hurt, she's got a lot of pain, especially in her arm," said Rachel Saling, Kaileigh's mother. ""The fractures in her L5 S1."

Rachel says her daughter also got a concussion from the incident and fractures in her L5-S1 in her back.

Looking ahead, she says Kaileigh's recovery will take some time.

"In a couple of months, the neurologist will do a test if there hasn't been any improvement to see if anything is permanent, but we're hoping that just with time things will improve," Rachel said.

"I still have quite a few months, if not years to be able to do things like I used to." added Kaileigh.

Kaileigh says she was discharged from the hospital on Sunday.

She is currently wearing a back brace and doing both physical and occupational therapy.

"I want it to be done as fast as I can as soon as I can and as well as it can," Kaileigh said.

Back home and on the mend, Kaileigh is grateful this incident wasn't much worse.

"It was scary, but at the same time, I was like, well, at least it didn't hit one person and at least it didn't like kill us all," Kaileigh said.

FOX 13 News reached out to the Sevier County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday to see if all of the teens have been released from the hospital. We have not heard back at the time.