Lightning-struck teen’s faith strong as ever

PARKERSBURG – Nearly a year after being struck by lightning in Parkersburg, 19-year-old Zach Sandy has been working hard to restore his body to its previous condition, but his faith is stronger than ever.

Sandy credits God and the people who came to his aid with saving his life, and on Saturday he met some of those people for the first time and renewed his friendship with others.

His parents, Russell and Cheri Sandy, arranged for several people to come together at City Park on Saturday afternoon, including the camp counselor who immediately began administering CPR and the emergency medical workers who responded to the scene and helped save his life. The family presented roses and plaques to the people involved.

On July 11, 2012, Sandy, who lived in Stonewood at the time, was playing softball at a church camp in Parkersburg when he was struck by lightning out of an apparently clear sky. Sandy said he has since learned that while the storm approaching that day seemed far away, lightning can occur up to 10 miles away from a storm’s leading edge.

“If you can see dark clouds in the distance, you’re too close,” he said.

The bolt knocked Sandy and other players to the ground. People immediately started seeking shelter when one of the counselors, Caleb Tisdale, noticed Sandy wasn’t moving, went to check on him and started CPR immediately after noticing he wasn’t breathing.

Tisdale kept up the CPR until emergency medical crews arrived on the scene about 10 to 15 minutes later, including emergency service workers Jim Lemley and Lori Short. They are members of Camden Clark Ambulance Service and also attended Saturday’s gathering, as did Tisdale. They were joined by Lindsay Leasure, who came to the scene with her mother to help after hearing about the incident.

Sandy said everyone at the church camp was either watching or trying to help and when he was loaded into the ambulance so the paramedics could see what else they could do to help, everyone started praying.

“They said within 10 seconds of the prayer starting, the doors of the ambulance came open and they said that they had a pulse,” he said.

“I can never say ‘thank you’ enough to the people that were there that day,” Sandy said.

“I thank them for continuing and for keeping their faith.”

Sandy was taken to Camden Clark Medical Center, then to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown before ending at West Penn Burn Center in Pittsburgh. He was initially in critical condition but soon began recovering.

After being struck, Sandy had scorch marks from his head down to the nape of his neck as well as a number of burns and bruises. His clothes were singed and his shoes had holes in them where the electricity passed through.

Following his release from the hospital, Sandy said he initially had some problems with standing and walking and initially had to use a walker after his release from the hospital. He also had constant pain to deal with in his legs, but that later began to diminish and his strength started returning.

A two-sport athlete in Clarksburg with a scholarship to play football in college, Sandy was initially told he might need to use the walker permanently, but he has been working since then to rehabilitate his body.

“To this day, I can jog on a treadmill and I can jog. I still can’t sprint, but I know that day is coming and I know it will happen one day,” he said.

Sandy had hopes of pursuing sports in college and perhaps professionally, but said his experiences have taken him in a new direction, one based around his and his family’s faith.

“I’m going to start chasing my calling in the ministry and continue going around and telling my story to people, hoping that it will increase their faith and encourage them not to give up,” he said.

“I’ve learned to appreciate everything I have, appreciate everywhere I go and everywhere I am,” Sandy said.