With a new front of heavy electrical storms expected in the wake of the Icelandic volcano eruption, there will no doubt be at least some close calls when it comes to lightning and its proximity to people. And at worst the grim statistics of lightning deaths will be only bolstered as some unfortunates do not take the proper precautions or are caught out in the open. But how does this mysterious force of nature interact with the human body? The truth is, there is much about lightning that we simply cannot explain.
When we are struck by a heavy industrial piece of equipment’s sudden electrical discharge we can be subjected to up to 63,000 volts. When someone is struck by a typical bolt of lightning, however, they are often subjected to forces up to 300,000 volts. This incredible force often runs through the body and can leave mysterious marks on both the exterior and interior of a victim. And doctors will often have trouble charting the path of the electrical arc as it travels through the body, making patients even harder to treat.
And the statistics on lightning strikes are grim. One in five people who are struck by lightning die instantly. Men are four times as likely to be struck by lightning than women. And even those who survive lightning strikes often are left with unfortunate residual side effects that can last the rest of their lives.
The most common immediate deaths associated with lightning striking are heart attack due to Ventricular fibrillation, causing the mind to lose control of respiratory centers, or destruction of the internal organs causing multi-system failure within minutes. Other injuries range from cardiac dysfunction due to the changing shape of the heart after it heats up considerably, and pulmonary edema which can cause the respiratory system to fail.
And there are other injuries that are less easy to track and notice as well. Those who undergo lightning strike often undergo mental changes that are unknown. Many lightning strike sufferers, if they later undergo an Electroencephalogram (EEG) will display drastically different brainwave patterns. In addition to the obvious post-traumatic stress disorder, many sufferers also exhibit mental illnesses shortly after being struck by lightning that were not apparent before their encounter with the forces of nature.
But other than that, there are also other effects that lightning can have on the human mind. Some have said that a person who has been struck by lightning has a certain look to them that indicates an existence somehow “touched” by forces beyond the scope of normal people. Of course this may be no less of a legend than those who say certain natural springs imbue bathers who visit them with supernaturally motivated health.
It’s easy to understand why so much electrical power running through the body could inspire stories of supernatural ability. The human body is made up primarily of one of nature’s most perfect conductors: water. And the brain and nervous systems are powered by the same type of electrical energy that powers our lights. So when a great amount passes through the body, it can have an incredible effect on both.