HughPickens.com writes: "Ferris Jabr reports in Outside Magazine that every year, more than 500 Americans are struck by lightning. Roughly 90 percent of them will survive, but those survivors will be instantly, fundamentally altered in ways that still leave scientists scratching their heads. For example, Michael Utley was a successful stockbroker who often went skiing and windsurfing before he was struck by lightning. Today, at 62, he lives on disability insurance. "I don't work. I can't work. My memory's fried, and I don't have energy like I used to. I aged 30 years in a second." Lightning also dramatically altered Utley's personality. "It made me a mean, ornery son of a b****." Utley created a website devoted to educating people about preventing lightning injury and started regularly speaking at schools and doing guest spots on televised weather reports. Mary Ann Cooper, professor emerita at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is one of the few medical doctors who have attempted to investigate how lightning alters the brain's circuitry. According to Cooper, the evidence suggests lightning injuries are, for the most part, injuries to the brain, the nervous system, and the muscles. Lightning can ravage or kill cells, but it can also leave a trail of much subtler damage and Cooper and other researchers speculate that chronic issues are the result of lightning scrambling each individual survivor's unique internal circuitry (PDF). "Those who attempt to return to work often find they are unable to carry out their former functions and after a few weeks, when coworkers get weary of 'covering' for them, they either are put on disability (if they are lucky) or fired," she writes.
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