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Teenager describes near-death lightning strike

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When doctors told 13-year-old Josiah Wiedman that his heart had stopped beating for 15 minutes, he says he was in disbelief. “All I know is that I was dead,” Wiedman told me, about a lightning strike that sent him nine feet into the air.

On August 8, Wiedman was heading home through a park near his home in El Mirage, Arizona, with his friend, Javier Tapia, after several hours of skateboarding.

“It was raining and we were going home when it happened,” Wiedman said of the dramatic lightning strike, video of which was captured by a security camera on a house situated near the park.

A quick-thinking witness to the incident ran to Wiedman’s aid and applied CPR until paramedics arrived.

Javier was struck too, according to Wiedman, who took the direct hit. “Javier is doing OK,” said Wiedman. “He just has a little pain in his leg right now.”

Much to the surprise of Wiedman’s doctors, the teenager left the hospital five days after the incident.

“I have a concussion right now,” Wiedman told me two weeks after the near-death experience. “I have to have more tests to make sure I’m OK. It’s hard to answer some questions because I’m still a little confused.”

When the bolt of lightning struck Wiedman and Tapia, Wiedman says it felt like a “burst of heat, then everything went dark.” Three days later, he awoke from a medically-induced coma to the news that his heart had stopped beating for 15 minutes.

Wiedman says he is not worried about a lightning strike hitting him again, but he is concerned about it happening to someone else.

“I don’t think it will happen to me again,” Wiedman said, “but I am worried about other people getting struck by lightning. I pray that the next person who gets hit will be OK. Unless I’m extremely unlucky, I’m not worried about getting hit again.”

As news of the incident spread through the community of El Mirage, a city located about 40 minutes from Phoenix, Wiedman says he became the talk of the town. He also discovered that his circle of friends was about to expand.

“About 13 kids show up at my door every day,” he said. “Some of them, I’ve barely hung out with before, but now they want to hang out with all me all the time.”

Since he left the hospital, Wiedman, who was about to enter the eighth grade three days after this interview, says he’s had little time to ponder the significance of his brush with death but that it has altered his outlook somewhat.

“I feel extremely lucky to be alive, but I realize that I need to live life a little more because you could die at any time. You have to fulfill everything you want to do so I’m going to life my life more.”

I asked Josiah what his bucket list looks like.

“I’m going to hang out with my friends more. I want to do more skateboarding and learn a few more tricks. I also want to get my rapping career off the ground. It won’t happen unless I make it happen.”

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the odds of being struck by lightning are 1 in 3,000 during a lifetime. Lightning strikes are responsible for 3,696 deaths between 1959 and 2003.


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