The human body is sometimes able to withstand the most destructive forces that it encounters. JoAnne Cyr can certainly attest to that, as she survived a one-in-a-million phenomenon in April 2018. Following the incredible incident, though, she issued a grave warning to other people in a similar situation.
A resident of Sun City Center in Hillsborough County, Florida, Cyr is a grandmother who already boasted survival experience. Indeed, she had won her battle with cancer not long before the incident in question. But things took an unexpected turn on April 10, 2018. It all started with a seemingly innocuous venture into her own backyard.
Due to some bad weather, Cyr was attempting to drain the resulting rainwater from the patio in the backyard. With a metal shovel in hand, the grandma worked quickly so that she could get back inside her home. “I just thought, if I just had a couple of minutes to fix it, I was going to go into the house,” she told WFTS.
However, this proved to be a very bad storm for those living in the local area. The National Weather Service in Ruskin, Florida, warned residents to prepare for heavy rain and lightning, as well as winds reaching up to 60 mph. With hailstones also predicted, locals were told to ready themselves for roof damage and uprooted trees.
Despite the warnings, though, Cyr pressed on, as she tried to stop the accumulation of water on the patio from leaking into her home. However, that steely determination led to a potentially disastrous incident. The grandma was struck down by a one-in-a-million phenomenon.
In fact, while holding the metal shovel, Cyr was hit by lightning in her backyard. The Florida native caught a glimpse of the flash before instantly feeling pain throughout her body. “It was just shocking my whole entire insides,” she recalled. “It was a horrible feeling, and I just wanted to keep the water out of the house.”
As she continued to reflect on the incident, Cyr tried to describe the pain that she’d been in. “It’s like when you get a quick zap, I guess, from electricity,” she said. “But it’s a real big one throughout your whole entire body that you can’t stop.”
While instances of humans being hit by lightning are incredibly rare in the United States, a small number of individuals are still affected by the phenomenon. The National Weather Service claims that, on average, 47 people are killed by lightning every year. In addition, hundreds of others are badly hurt by strikes across the country.
Incredibly, lightning can reach temperatures of around 50,000° F, which is hotter than the surface of the sun. With that in mind, even the quickest of strikes can have potentially destructive effects on the human body. Indeed, those who are hit by lightning usually suffer third-degree burns, while their clothes and hair are also at risk of catching fire.
Elsewhere, metal jewelry such as earrings and necklaces might sear into the skin of someone struck by lightning, as those items are capable of channeling an electrical current. In addition, the strike could also cause their blood vessels to burst, leaving a distinctive scarring pattern. Known as a Lichtenberg figure, the scars themselves resemble bolts of lightning.
“[Lightning] does a lot of damage to the tissues and causes burning,” Dr. Joseph Zito, of the Franklin Hospital in Long Island, New York, told weather.com in January 2014. “It’s a lot of voltage. [The bolt] travels through the body and causes an entrance and exit wound, like a gunshot.”
Indeed, the internal damage from a lightning strike can be devastating. “[Lightning] usually travels down the nervous system – through the tissue,” Dr. Zito continued. “What ends up happening are issues with neurologic activity and cardiac issues. [For example] you can develop cardiac arrhythmias.”
There are several neurological issues that could result from being struck by lightning. Among them are mood swings, memory loss and changes in personality. Indeed, a number of scientists claim that the electrical current can alter your brain cells. An example of that came back in 1994, when orthopedic surgeon Tony Cicoria was hit by lightning while standing in a phone booth.
Cicoria was resuscitated after his heart initially stopped beating and also suffered burns on his face. He had problems with his memory following the incident, and soon he developed an unshakeable urge to play the piano. Within a few months, in fact, Cicoria was pursuing a career as a classical musician, leaving his previous job behind.
Although Cyr was due to see a neurologist in April 2018, the damage that her body had suffered was already clear. For example, the Florida native now walked with a cane and suffered with numb fingers and toes. Nonetheless, it could’ve been far worse. And with that in mind, she issued a warning to those who find themselves outside during a storm.
“Please get out when it’s thundering and lightning, get in the house,” Cyr told WFTS. “Don’t stay out and be stupid like me.” The crux of her message was reiterated by Dr. Zito, who made it clear that lightning can be very easy to evade.
“If you’re in an area with frequent lightning storms, don’t be the tallest thing out there. Stay inside,” Dr. Zito advised. “We’re a country that lives on the couch, and when the weather turns bad we decide to go outside. It doesn’t make sense. Use common sense.”
However, sometimes it isn’t enough to just take shelter. This is shown by the case of a 23-year-old woman who was killed by lightning in White Springs, Florida, just a few days before Cyr was hit. The lady was one of five people to get inside a camper trailer to stay dry during a storm, only for it to be struck by lightning. In addition, the other four individuals present were also wounded in the incident.
As for Cyr, her brush with the phenomenon prompted her to buy three lottery tickets on the day that she was discharged from hospital. When asked about her odds of winning after surviving the lightning strike, the grandmother responded, “Well that’d be nice. Maybe someone else can finish my yard work!”
The human body is sometimes able to withstand the most destructive forces it encounters. JoAnne Cyr is living proof of that, not only surviving a battle with cancer but also a lightning strike. She truly is a one-in-a-million phenomenon.