Posted on 07/31/2013

FLATHEAD, MT--The worst part about being hit by lightning may not be the electrical shock — it might be the CPR that comes later.

Travis Heitmann, 23, of Kalispell, one of three Glacier National Park visitors struck by lightning on July 17, said the experience has generally left him drained, but his sore ribs and back could be the result of the cardiopulmonary resuscitation that saved his life.

“My ribs are killing me,” Heitmann said last week. “I have a prescription for a massage therapy and can’t wait to get there.”

Heitmann, his long-time friend Kinsey Leishman, 23, of Huson, and a 10-year-old Kalispell boy Heitmann has been mentoring were hiking on the trail to St. Mary Falls when a storm quickly blew in. They turned back after reaching Virginia Falls and were about three-quarters of a mile from the Going-to-the-Sun Road trailhead when the lightning bolt struck.

“I have no memory of any of that,” Heitmann said. “The proof is in our cameras. I can’t recall shooting any of these photos.”

There was some electrical damage to his iPhone, which was in his pants pocket, but he’s been able to download the photos. His hearing was temporarily affected, and he felt a little “fuzzy” for a few days, but he’s been back to work while taking it easy.

“I’ve been sleeping about 10 hours a day,” he said.

Eyewitnesses to the incident do have some vivid memories. Steven Keith, a junior high teacher from Atlanta, was with his brother and niece when they came upon the three victims laying unconscious on the trail.

A woman named Beth began to administer CPR on Heitmann, and Keith went to work on Leishman, who wasn’t breathing. Keith said her lips were blue and her eyes were open. He completed a fourth or fifth cycle of two breaths followed by 20 chest compressions when her breathing resumed.

That’s when Beth pointed to the boy lying unconscious nearby. Keith said the boy began to breathe again after half a dozen CPR cycles. Fortunately, a pediatrician was nearby on the trail, and the ALERT helicopter soon delivered Park medics.


SOURCE: Flathead News Group