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Young man struck by lightning survives: “I looked down and saw burns all over my body, but I felt no pain.”

When I regained consciousness, huge white lights pointed at me and I saw figures completely covered all the way to their heads, touching wounds on my body. For a moment, in my confusion, I thought I was abducted by aliens and started to fight to defend myself.

  • 4 months ago
  • February 8, 2024
6 min read
Gabriel thrives in recovery after surviving a lightning strike. | Photo courtesy of Gabriel Berón Gabriel thrives in recovery after surviving a lightning strike. | Photo courtesy of Gabriel Berón
journalist’s notes
interview subject
Gabriel Jonathan Berón, 20, is a young entrepreneur from Villa Mercedes in the province of San Luis. His journey in business launched a year and a half ago when he started a car wash. Determined to make a mark in the industry, he is currently rebranding his venture as “El Rayo.” After the lightning strike, Gabriel gained a new outlook on life and says that he wants to move quickly on his projects, business ventures, and to become a father one day.
background information
Lightning injuries involve powerful electrical discharges with rapid, intense trauma, potentially leading to fractures, burns, and organ damage. Instant fatality can occur in 25-30 percent of cases, while survivors may experience brain and sensory organ effects, such as coma, memory alterations, eardrum ruptures, and the long-term risk of cataracts. For more information visit Effects of Lightning Strikes.

VILLA MERCEDES, Argentina — Last month, as I walked home in the rain, I was struck by lightning. It coursed from my neck to my feet until the electric charge reached the earth, but I felt nothing. It was as if my body simply turned off.

I only began to learn what happened when I awoke in the hospital the next day. When the doctors presented me with a security camera recording of the moment the lightning hit me, I felt shocked. While I have a long way to go in my recovery, I feel incredibly lucky to be alive.

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I awoke in a room under shining white lights: I thought I had been abducted by aliens

On the night of January 6, 2023, I enjoyed a birthday celebration at my friends’ house. It was nearly dawn when I decided to walk the two blocks home. Suddenly, a fierce storm erupted, drenching me within seconds. Completely soaked, my clothes clung to my body, and I cursed my luck as the cold settled in.

The imposing winds and intense rains transformed into a curtain of water that blurred my vision. Every so often, the street illuminated from flashes of lightning. I reached the corner near my house when I heard a whistle. Another group of my friends stood nearby, calling out to me.

They asked me for a cigarette, and we stood around talking when suddenly, everything turned off like a light switch. When I regained consciousness, huge white lights pointed at me and I saw figures completely covered all the way to their heads, touching wounds on my body.

For a moment, in my confusion, I thought I was abducted by aliens and started to fight to defend myself. The figures made me go back to sleep. The next time I awoke, I gradually began to realize I was lying in a hospital bed but I had no idea why. A doctor patiently explained that I was hit by lightning, but I did not believe him. He spoke slowly, explaining it to me several times to give me time to assimilate.

I looked down and saw burns all over my body, but I felt no pain. Instead, an overpowering fatigue engulfed every muscle. It felt like the aftermath of working out at the gym for the first time, but it extended everywhere. When the lightning hit, it contracted every muscle in my body, leaving me exhausted. Unable to move, sleep overtook me again.

In the hospital, he watched the video over and over of lightning striking his body

When I woke up again, my dad and cousin stood on one side of my bed while my girlfriend sat on the other. They looked frightened and concerned, so I tried to reassure them. Despite my condition, I managed to lift an arm and offer a thumbs-up when my girlfriend snapped a photo.

Later that same day, the doctor handed me my girlfriend’s cell phone to show me a video. A security camera on the street that night captured the very moment the lightning struck me and it went viral on social media. Witnessing my body crumble to the ground in a fraction of a second left me shocked. A shiver coursed through my body. Seeing the video unlocked a sensation my mind had blocked; an ugly sensation that left me feeling unsettled.

@radioagricultura

⚡Imágenes fuertes 📌El video del momento exacto en que un #rayo impacta sobre un joven de 26 años se ha viralizado durante las últimas horas, San Luis, Argentina. 🏥El hecho ocurrido el sábado 6 de enero dejó al hombre, identificado como Jonathan Berón, con quemaduras en el 20% de su cuerpo, por lo que se encuentra internado y fuera de peligro en el hospital Verónica Bailones de la provincia. 👀 ¿Qué opinas?

♬ sonido original – radioagricultura – radioagricultura

I replayed the video over and over, and with each view, a bittersweet mix of emotions hit me. I felt sorrow seeing myself in that state. Yet, I also felt joy for having survived. At 20 years old, the reality of the moment settled in and a profound desire to live engulfed me. It suddenly dawned on me, I had experienced very little in life so far. A long journey lay ahead.

All the projects, dreams, and desires I imagined for myself may have slipped away if that lightning killed me. I suddenly knew, my greatest achievement in life was this: I am here, alive, and still walking amongst all of you. When I returned home, I was greeted by posters and signs made by family and friends. They used humor – referring to me as Thor, Lightning McQueen, and Flash. Despite the disturbing experience I endured, I gave space for that humor and laughed.

We can vanish in an instant: I intend to pursue my dreams relentlessly

The ensuing days felt surreal. At times, a sense of defeat overwhelmed me. I felt like an old man, leaning on my loved ones just to go to the bathroom. My muscles remained weak and failed to support my weight. In my right ear, I heard muffled sounds like being submerged in water – the aftermath of the roar of the lightning. The doctors assured me my hearing would return, little by little.

On top of all of that, an intermittent scar weaved around my neck, down my chest, and across my arms and pelvic area. It descended all the way to my feet. While they remained painless, as the scars healed, a terrible itchiness constantly annoyed me. Over the ensuing days, the marks began to fade.

Not long after my return home, the video capturing the moment the lightning hit me caught the attention of media outlets nationwide. I received numerous interview requests. Sharing my story became therapeutic. It helped me process my experience and gave me a bit of entertainment during recovery. Even the Governor of the province of San Luis visited me at home.

The governor visiting Gabriel during his recovery at home | Photo courtesy of Gabriel Berón

In one interview, I mentioned struggling with the heat in the house and a television channel surprised me with an air conditioning unit, which helped a lot in my recovery. Before this experience, as a healthy young man with no illnesses, my own mortality never really crossed my mind. Now, however, I think of it often. Life remains unpredictable. We can vanish in an instant.

Armed with a new understanding of life, I shifted my focus to the projects I care about, an earnest commitment to hard work, my home, and my desire to become a father someday. I am going to pursue these dreams relentlessly now, fully aware that tomorrow is never guaranteed.

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Translations provided by Orato World Media are intended to result in the end translated document being understandable in the end language. Although every effort is made to ensure our translations are accurate we cannot guarantee the translation will be without errors.

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