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Florida Teen Helping to Repair Hurricane Damaged
Roof Struck by Lightning

Parphrased by
Steve Waldrop
September, 2004

Fifteen year-old Whit Watson was staying with relatives in Sebring Park, when he decided to travel to Port Charlotte with an uncle to help repair the hurricane-damaged roof of a relative in the Deep Creek area.

The teenager was standing on the roof of the house helping his uncle and another man patch a hole ripped open when Hurricane Charley roared through. As he stood holding a piece of plastic, a lightning bolt shot out of a seemingly clear sky and struck him in the back of the head, then exited his left foot. His work boot exploded and the left side of his clothes were ripped in a straight line. He was left with severe burns.

As the bolt shot down through the roof of the house in a fireball, Whit, a high school freshman, fell in a lifeless heap. His heart had stopped.

A nearby postman flagged down ambulance crew members that just happened to be down the street from where the accident happened. Luckily the paramedics saw the postman waving his arms in an attempt to alert them about the severely injured boy.

Since Hurricane Charly's arrival, many phone line in the area have been down and often cell phones can't get signals.

The paramedics responded in minutes and managed to get his heart going with a jolt from a defibrillator.

Watson was taken to Tampa General Hospital where he lay in a drug-induced coma, and doctors warned his parents not to expect too much.

The doctors warned that Whit suffered some brain damage because of lack of oxygen when his heart stopped. They say it may take as long as two years to determine the full extent.

Miracle in progress

Now, less than two months after the mid August accident, Whit is reasonably alert and can walk a little, although he's still struggling with vision problems and short-term memory. He was listed in fair condition at Tampa General Hospital.

His father, Hank Watson calls Whit "a miracle in progress."

"I feel OK, I guess," Whit said, adding that he wished he was able to see better. He is undergoing physical and speech therapy. Whit and his family hopes that he will get to go home in time for his 16th birthday- November 10.

"They never thought he'd get this far," Hank Watson said of the doctors who have been treating his son. "He's got some of them scratching their heads."

Whit doesn't remember anything about what happened to him. It's only been in the past week or so that he's become aware of his surroundings and could recognize his family. Doctors say he should continue to regain his faculties.

"I want to go home," Whit said.

His family says that a huge homecoming party is already in the works.

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