I have lost my voice. On March 2, I was hit by lightning while walking across a parking lot. As a result, because of extensive nerve and muscle damage, I no longer have full use of my right hand. I am typing this post left-handed. It is a rather slow and tedious process.

There was severe weather in the area. We were having a full-out thunderstorm with driving rain. I had my umbrella up. At one point, there was a simultaneous thunder boom and lightning flash. Part of the lightning stroke arced over and hit my umbrella, what is called a side flash. I smelled something burning, felt an electric shock in my right hand (the one holding the umbrella handle) and saw sparks shoot out the handle of the umbrella. My first thought was: “Did I just get hit by lightning?” Other than a damaged hand and a singed umbrella, I was otherwise unhurt. I’m fairly lucky.

I am adjusting to a one-handed life. I’m reminded of an old Mash episode where Major Charles Winchester operates on a young soldier and has to amputate his right hand. When the soldier wakes up, he lashes out at Winchester for cutting off his hand. It turns out the soldier is a concert pianist. I feel a little like that soldier.

I am a writer by trade. My life has been on hold this past month. Other than for a story submission to NPRs Three Minute Fiction contest, I have not done any writing. I have deadlines and commitments. I have an article to write for the Illinois Times. I have various writing projects I want to pursue. I have spent the past month bemoaning the loss of my voice.

Just like the soldier in the Mash episode, I have to adjust. As Major Winchester gave the soldier piano scores for the left hand, friends have offered me voice alternatives such as Dragon. I have been resistant to change but am finding I need to open myself to it. I still have a voice. I just need to learn new ways of expressing it.

It feels as though I’ve been granted a new lease on life. This event has marked a turning point in my life. My life has been steered in a new direction. Full of my new-found knowledge about lightning, I am putting together a lightning presentation. I am working on storytelling programs. In fact, I will be telling spider stories for students in the young naturalist program at Lincoln Memorial Garden.

Most importantly, I have realized writing is what I want to pursue. It is what I am. I was happiest while pursuing a freelancing career last year until the work dried up. I was let go from the temp job I was working because I am under medical restrictions. I don’t want to put myself in that position again. I want to be responsible for my own income, not fattening someone else’s pockets.

I recently purchased the May issue of Shambhala Sun. The lead story is about embracing change. I am a Buddhist. A major tenant in Buddhist philosophy is the concept of impermanence. Everything changes. Nothing lasts. By embracing impermanence, recognizing that change is an inevitable, painful part of life, it allows one to come to terms with change. Rather than finding change frightening, one can find within it peace and understanding. With that understanding, one progresses along the path to enlightenment.

Change. It’s a big part of my life right now. According to my hand specialist, it may take up to six months for the nerve damage in my right hand to fully heal, if it ever does. Nerves grow at the rate of one inch per month. We won’t know the full extent of the muscle damage until the nerves heal.

There is a lesson here for me. Nothing happens without reason. I just have to be open to it and accept it.


7 comments so far

  1. Nancy N on

    Roberta, I am so sorry to hear about this. I hope that, when the nerves have all healed, you will regain the use of your right hand.

    It must be a formidable challenge to have to adjust to new physical limitations, but your attitude is inspiring. Stay strong, Roberta. Please accept a warm hug and know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.

  2. Timothy Plocinski on


    I want so bad to say, ‘what does not kill you blah,blah,blah’ but this event was made for you, and that quote is a catch-all. Stay stong and keep on keepin’ on. I feel an affinity for you and your situation, and I look forward to all your sinister types. 🙂


  3. Ruth on

    I hope this doesn’t repeat, I wrote a whole comment and then couldn’t remember my password. Arrrggggghhhhhh.

    My hand injury wasn’t as bad as yours by any means, but I want to share with you.

    Two months after the Loma Prieta earthquake, I was attached by a mugger with a knife in San Francisco.

    I fought him. The knife went into my left palm first. Then, as he tried to get away (I was making too much noise and fighting him), the knife sliced through my right thumb, completely amputating the pad.

    The police found it and rushed me to SF General trauma center where the doctor cleaned it up and sewed it back on.

    It was a long, painful recovery. 80ish stitches and then steri-strips holding it all together as it healed, While I was back to work in a week, it wasn’t easy. I was a graphic artist, so you can imagine how hard it was to do my work. But I managed. I had to force my thumb to bend, it was really stiff for a long time.

    In fact, it still is. I had to learn to type using the back side of my thumb to tap the space key to avoid hitting the scar. Writing wasn’t easy either.

    But I did recover, although it’s still a little stiff, I drop two-liter bottles now and then when I forget that my grip isn’t as good as it used to be, If I hit that scar by accident, oh it hurts and many bad words ensue. And when the weather changes, it feels like someone is stabbing me in the thumb with needles. I assume that’s due to nerve damage.

    But I did recover and my life goes on.

    Wishing you all the best and sending prayers and good thoughts to you across this electronic net that ties us all together. I KNOW you will recover. It won’t be easy, but you will get there.

  4. 2hewitts: Doug & Robin Hewitt on

    Make sure you get physical therapy. I’ve had extensive hand surgery, and it took the better part of a year to regain full use (although the therapist said I wouldn’t, and did vocational therapy as well). A virtual hug to you!

  5. twistingthreads on

    I’m so glad to hear that you managed to write a story for 3MF after all. We would have missed you! I wish I had left a comment earlier when you mentioned this on 3MF’s Facebook, but I’m sorry this happened and still wishing you all the best while hoping you recover. Ruth: what a story! May both of you continue to adapt and stay positive; your fortitude is inspiring.

  6. Ruth on

    I only shared my tale because it’s one of healing and recovery. It’s nowhere near the damage that our friend Roberta has suffered.

    I am wishing all good things for you, Roberta, and a full and speedy recovery. Your positive attitude and determination ensures a good ending after this terrible injury.

  7. Susan on

    You have an incredible story to share Robera. I’m so very thankful that you are here to tell it. Take good care of yourself!!

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