The Stuff Urban Myths Are Made Of

Did you hear the one about the Colorado teen who almost died after being struck by lightning while listening to his iPod. Does it sound like material that urban myths are made of? In this case most of the statement is true.

Jason Bunch, a high school senior from Castle Rock, Colorado, was listening to his iPod while mowing his lawn last week. He was just finishing up when a bolt of lightning struck him. Bunch was rushed to the hospital where spent time in the intensive care unit before being released a few days later.

“I woke up and blood was coming out my ears,” said Bunch, who also sustained large scars on his feet and smaller burn marks on his hands. “From where the iPod was, it damaged my hearing and it ruptured my eardrums. Where the cord was, it burned me all down my body,” said Bunch. “I’m just extremely blessed to be alive,” he added.

Ironically, less than a month ago doctors in London issued a warning about the dangers of listening to an iPod or using a cell phone during a thunderstorm. In a letter to the British Medical Journal doctors noted, “metallic devices (like iPods) and wires can act as a conductor, causing potentially lethal internal injuries.” They cited the case of a teenager who was hit by lightning in a London park while she was using a cell phone. In addition to being confined to a wheelchair, the 15-year-old girl now suffers from cognitive, emotional and physical problems. She also had a badly perforated eardrum in her left ear.

Doctors say, “When a person is struck by lightning, the high resistance of human skin usually results in lightning being conducted over the skin rather than through the body — a process known as flashover.” But, in their letter to the Medical Journal they go on to say, “that conductive materials in direct contact with skin such as metallic objects disrupt the flashover and result in internal injury with a greater risk of dying.” To support their claims they cited three similar cases: one in Malaysia in 1999, another in South Korea in 2004, and one in China in 2005. The people died in all three cases.

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.