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Benton County, Iowa ~ Biography and Family Information

SEVERE INJURY FROM LIGHTNING: RECOVERY.
By C. C. Griffin, M. D., Vinton, Iowa.

Source:  "The Physician and Surgeon"
  A Professional Medical Journal,
Devoted to Medical and Surgical Science.
A Monthly Magazine Published by J. W. Keating.
Volume II. May, 188O. Number V.
Pages 193-194
On March 31, Mr. George R. Knapp, deputy clerk of the court of Benton county, Iowa, accompanied by another gentleman and little brother, started out for a duck hunt. There were thunder clounds in the sky, but the party proceeded to the river. Finding game, Mr. K. was advancing cautiously with his gun in position to fire, when he stopped beneath a small elm tree. Some twenty feet distant were four cottonwood trees, much larger and taller than the elm. While in this position, there came a thunder crash, and Mr. K. was seen to fall forward into a pool of water, from which he was soon lifted. Water was brought from the river and dashed in his face. As soon as possible he was carried to his father's house, more than a mile distant. An hour after the accident the sufferer was visited by Drs. J. and S. A. Oren, who found him in a state of collapse. The extremities and surface of the body were cold. Pulse was only four per minute. Alcoholic stimulants, friction and heat were freely used, and after a few hours the body and the extremities became warm. The pulse increased to six and eight, then to ten, fifteen, twenty and on up to fifty-eight, twelve hours after the accident, when I first saw the patient. Four or five hours after the accident he relapsed, his pulse became imperceptible, and it was thought that he was dead. But Drs. Oren continued to use their best endeavors to save life. The patient's feet were repeatedly dipped for a moment into water heated quite hot. More stimulants were given, and in a few minutes the pulse came up and color returned to the blanched face. The sinking- spells came occasionally, but grew less alarming and prolonged. After this, he was restless, tossing himself about upon the bed, and gazing about with a vacant expression. About three hours before I first saw him, or nine hours after the accident, the patient vomited freely, and from that time rested more quietly. During the night he once reached under the bed for the vessel, and when it was obtained for him he urinated freely. The next morning he could articulate a few words. His questions were intelligently asked. During this day and the following night he was quite restless. Since then he has rested better. I saw him again two days after the accident, when he could talk aloud. He could not hear anyone else, but could hear his own voice. He read and answered the questions written for him. He complained of extreme muscular soreness and pain. He has been growing better all the while, and can now hear indistinctly. The muscular soreness is marked, especially in the extremities, and his gait is unsteady, but is constantly improving.

The cottonwood trees above referred to were considerably shattered by the lightning, and the elm under which Mr. K. stood was struck near the top; the descending current, it seemed, leaped from the tree and struck Mr. K. squarely upon the top of the head, tearing his hat (a common felt one) into shreds and burning the hair and scalp. At the point where it struck on top of the head, the current divided, one going down the left side of the head to the shoulder and down the spinal column. The other current passed down back of the right ear to the breast, then diagonally down the abdomen, then down the left leg. The course of the current is marked by a burn, which is deeper at the colar, under the keys in his pocket, and at the ankle where the leg of the drawers was buttoned, than elsewhere. The drum of the right ear, Dr. O. informs me, was slightly ruptured, and there has been a sanious discharge. It was several days before the pulse reached 70, and now an increase in the temperature of the room will increase the pulse proportionaly about two beats to one degree of temperature. Drs. Oren deserve great credit for the active and persistent treatment of the case, when there seemed to be no possibility of recovery.

Transcriber's Note: Attending physicians were Drs. Jesse & Samuel A. Oren of Big Creek Twp., Blackhawk County & Cedar Twp., Benton County; and Clark C. Griffin of Vinton, Benton County.


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