Despite reports released Wednesday showing two boys remain in critical condition after being hit by lightning Tuesday, family members said they continue to be optimistic their loved ones will survive.
Students attending Snow Canyon High School, Christopher “Dane” Zdunich, 16, and Alex Phillip Lambson, 17, were both life flown to the University Medical Center of Las Vegas Tuesday afternoon after being struck by lightning while waiting on campus for a ride home.
Reports Wednesday from the Medical Center’s Public Information Officer, Danita Cohen, said the boys both remained in critical condition and defined critical as, “vital signs unstable, the patient may be unconscious and the indicators are unfavorable.”
“They were severely injured and have been sedated so that they’re comfortable,” Cohen said.
However, the parents said during a press conference Wednesday that while they can’t believe this is happening, they are hopeful and see improvements in both Alex and Dane’s condition.
According to a Washington County School District news release, both boys regained consciousness but Alex then had to be placed into an induced coma.
Warren Brooks, the principal of Snow Canyon High School, said he had received information both boys were placed into a coma after they became conscious and the medical team had begun cleaning and scrubbing the burns.
“His (Dane’s) blood pressure rose really high and he was in just so much pain the doctors had to induce the coma in order for Dane to heal and for the doctors to be able to stabilize him,” Brooks said.
Brooks said he understood from reports he had received that while conscious, the boys were able to recognize their family members. In addition, other reports have stated that the boys had some movement of their bodies such as wiggling their feet and holding the fingers of their loved ones.
Doctors said they believe the lightning bolt struck Dane directly, entering at the top of his head and exiting through both his feet. Alex was hit by the flash of the lightning, and suffered second and third degree burns all over his body.
Brooks, who was one of five school personnel to assist in resuscitating Dane and Alex while they waited for emergency teams, said he believed he saw four wounds in Dane’s feet where the lightning had exited his body. Alex, he said, had severe burns from his neck down. Doctors said the burns go from Alex’s face all the way down his body and that electricity probably traveled around Alex’s belt, sending burns down his backside as well.
Alex’s stepfather, David Talley, said, “Alex is pretty burned up. His clothes were just — well — they handed me a bag of smoldering ash, basically.”
Talley credits the quick response from the school’s staff for saving the boys’ lives. And Cohen said the long term effects of lightning strikes are often largely determined by how quickly resuscitation is started.
“When somebody has this happen, the victims of a lightning strike often suffer from cardiac arrest, they are severely burned and so the long term effects can be great. It really depends a lot on how long before CPR is initiated,” Cohen said. “And fortunately, in this case, CPR was initiated almost immediately.”
Brooks said he and two assistant principals, along with the school police officer and a teacher, helped with resuscitation efforts. And while they are being credited with saving the boys’ lives, Brooks remains humble about his role.
“It wasn’t about being heroic,” Brooks said, “it was about two of our boys were laying there and needed help. They are our boys and they needed help so we did what we had to do.”
Brooks also gave credit to the emergency team for quickly responding to the incident and the police who were able to retain order and control to allow for the emergency team to reach the boys. He also recognized the students who initially stepped up to help carry the boys back into the building in order for the school staff to begin administering CPR.
“It was really amazing how well everything went together,” he said. “I was very pleased that there were so many people willing to step up to help and to give help in such a flash.”
Brooks said he felt like the whole thing is completely surreal.
“It’s like the whole world has slowed down,” he said. “It’s unbelievable to me this happened. The chances of something like this happening are so low.”
Alex’s father, Arden Lambson echoed Brook’s same sentiments.
“He has a better chance of winning the lottery than being struck by lightning in this manner. It’s so hard to get a handle on,” he said.
Snow Canyon brought in seven counselors to the school yesterday to help students in dealing with the event. Brooks said that while not every student took advantage of the counseling available to them, there were about 50 or 60 who did.
"So there weren't a lot who came in and talked to the counselors but we wanted to have them available anyway to those students who felt they needed that assistance in dealing with this tragedy," Brooks said.
The school also brought in a counselor specifically available to debate students. Alex and Dane both were avid debaters and were actively involved in the school’s debate club. Rather than sitting around feeling powerless in their inability to assist their friends, Brooks said the students decided they would do what they could by organizing fundraisers to help collect donations for the families.
"They decided this on their own," Brooks said. "They didn't want to just sit around here with their friends more than 100 miles away in a hospital waiting for someone to tell them how they could help. They felt powerless so they took charge and said, ‘OK here's what we can do.’ I'm proud of them."