Utah Teens Struck by Lightning Speak Out

LAS VEGAS -- Two Utah high school students struck by lightning last fall say they're alive to talk about it thanks to a quick thinking teacher and the Las Vegas doctors who didn't give up.

During an emergency, it's through the doors at University Medical Center that doctors can make the difference between life and death. The only stand alone trauma unit west of the Mississippi River is where patients come for care when survival isn't certain.

But Alex Lambson and his friend Dane Zdunich are survivors. The two were struck by lightning in St. George, Utah in October as they waited for a ride after school. Ron Hansen, a teacher, started CPR until help arrived. They were eventually airlifted to UMC.

Trauma doctors faced tough decisions.

"You've got to make the right decision and do the right things or the patients die," said Dr. Jay Coates, vice-chair of the Department of Trauma at UMC.

Both boys had no pulse for at least 30-minutes. They were considered clinically dead.

"It was the fact that the good CPR was started right away that saved the boys life," said critical care pediatrician Dr. Rick Sterett.

The boys were under the care of Dr. Sterett.

"Dane came back quickly," he said. "Alex struggled with disorientation and agitation."

Dane recovered well and was released within a week. It took Alex about two months. The lightning strike stunned his brain, but he steadily improved and is almost back to the way he was. Both families credit the care they received. They are just two of the close to 20,000 patients at UMC each year.

"You could set us in the middle of Afghanistan or Iran or Iraq or Libya, there's nothing that could come through those doors that we can't fix inside of these four walls," said Dr. Coates.

"We both died, in a sense, and we were re-born. So it's kind of an interesting experience. We're going to celebrate that as another birthday," said Zdunich.

Doctors say UMC is part an elite group of hospitals in the world. Less than 2 percent can do what they do. They also say 10 to 20 percent of people struck by lightning die on scene, but once they get to the hospital, they have a high chance of survival.


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