North Carolina Lightning Strike
Survivor Counsels Peers
September 4, 2003
A North Carolina man who survived a
lightning strike is counseling other lightning victims on what to
Steve Marshburn was a banker for 21 years, now he is unable to work
full time, has trouble remembering and cannot drive a car. So he
spends his days in a small home office counseling hundreds of people
who also have survived electric shock or lightning.
People from all over the world call
to Lightning Strike & Electric Shock Survivors International,
a support group founded in 1989 by Marshburn and his wife.
"I'll tell them very quickly that I, too, have brain injury,
memory problems, cognitive deficits- but I'm here," said Marshburn.
Researchers in Chicago, Maryland and North Carolina draw on a database
of symptoms reported by 1,200 Lightning Strike members.
Doctors call to check patient's complaints against those reported
by a majority of lightning survivors, including fatigue, seizure,
sleep disturbance, memory loss, short attention span and depression.
"The support group has helped to characterize some of the problems
survivors have," said Dr. Mary Ann Cooper, who directs the
Lightning Injury Research Program at the University of Illinois
at Chicago. "I think they have enough members that physicians
can see this is a real injury.
Lightning kills an estimated 100 Americans each year, second only
to flash floods among weather-related killers. It also injures 1,000
Max Dearing, 45, of Graham got hit on a Golf Course. He and four
coworkers publisher were under a storm shelter when lightning found
them July 7, 1995.
Eight years later, Dearing has migraines, muscle spasms and random,
hot- poker pains. He can't sleep more than a couple of hours or
sit still more than five minutes. He forgets where he was going
and what he was saying.
"You'll find there's a lot of folks- after you talk to quite
a few you'll find a lot of this, it's going to sound a little bit
strange- but you feel like you're constantly buzzing or vibrating,"
Dearing listed diagnoses accumulated from a string of doctors: Clinical
depression , fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, long and
short-term memory disabilities, social anxiety, possible adult attention
Marshburn's understanding dates from 1969, when lightning entered
a bank through a drive-through teller's microphone and struck him
down. From that day on, piercing pain kept his shoulders slumped
and his back stooped. The lightning broke his back. Now after numerous
surgeries he can walk without wearing a back brace or using a cane.