Man hit by lightning hospitalized

Victim was outside vehicle at the time
Man hit by lightning hospitalized

A Janesville man struck by lightning Monday afternoon is in critical condition at Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center.

Witnesses told Janesville police they saw Gaylin Edwards, 63, get out of his vehicle on Highway 14 near Interstate 39/90 at about 5:15 p.m. when he collapsed. Police said he fell unconscious with a head injury.

Operators of a private ambulance and an off-duty nurse were driving just a couple of cars behind Edwards when they saw him laying unconscious in the middle of the highway, and they started CPR.

Mercy Hospital’s EMS Director Jay MacNeal said early response time can make all the difference.

“The early CPR is what really gives people the maximum chance of survival, and again, I think that the Paritech Ambulance crews, the Janesville fire and our ER staff here, everyone did an excellent job,” MacNeal said. “The physicians are providing great care and doing the best to protect him neurologically, and we are hopeful that he will recover.”

There were storms in the Janesville area at the time, but MacNeal said it’s pretty rare for someone to get hit by lightning.

“Your chances of being struck by lightning are 1 in 500,000,” MacNeal said.

The Janesville Fire Department was called to the scene, and firefighters said getting out of the car during a thunderstorm can put you at a greater risk for exposure.

“Water and electricity don’t mix, and when he was exiting the vehicle near that metal, that whole lightning-to-ground situation comes into play,” said Scott Running, with the Janesville Fire Department.

MacNeal said if you are caught in the middle of a lightning storm, the most important thing to remember is to find shelter, but to never lay on the ground.

“There’s a myth out there that you want to lay down flat on the ground. That is just going to increase your contact. You actually want to hunch down, kind of like a crash position and cover your ears and squat down like you would in an airplane crash,” MacNeal said.

This is the first reported case of a person being hit by lightning in Wisconsin this year.