Surgery restores vision for Frisco lightning strike victim

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by JANET ST. JAMES / WFAA

WFAA

Posted on November 8, 2012 at 9:03 AM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 26 at 4:25 AM

FRISCO — Nothing can persuade Debra Anderhub to touch the umbrella propped against her television.

"No," she said firmly. "It just reminds me I'm here, and I'm alive, and I'm good. And God's good."

It's a reminder of a stormy spring day; March 20, 2012, to be exact. The 52-year old teacher's assistant was working car duty outside Rogers Elementary in Frisco when she was struck by lightning.

"It just went through the whole left side, like a huge electrical shock," Anderhub said. "I felt like my eyes were pulled out and sitting on my cheeks."

Within days, the world started to fade from those eyes.

"Things went blurry, and then it was just like the lights went out," she said. "I just sat here or laid in the bed. Couldn't read, couldn't drive. Couldn't work the microwave. Couldn't do anything."

"She was right on the cusp of being legally blind," said eye surgeon Dr. Dennis Goldsberry.

He explained that cataracts are a common side-effect of a lightning strike; not that lightning strikes are common –– they are about a one-in-a million occurrence. Debra Anderhub's is the only case he's ever seen.

"In Debra's case, I think the combination of the bright flash from the lightning in combination with the heat was probably what caused the damage to her lens," Dr. Goldsberry said.

Not knowing if he could fix the damage –– and without promise of any compensation, as Anderhub didn't have medical insurance –– Dr. Goldsberry replaced her cloudy cataracts with lens implants.

"The result is, she sees 20/15 without any glasses today," the surgeon said with a smile.

"And, I'm so thankful," Anderhub added.  "As a matter of fact, one of my kids at school said, I heard him tell another student, 'You better beware, because Ms. Anderhub can see 200 miles away. She can see everything you do now!'  So I love that!"

Anderhub's medical bills have been paid by the state's workers compensation program. She still has memory and nerve problems from the lightning strike, along with a tiny scar on her elbow where the bolt left her body.

But she has her sight — along with that folded up reminder of how fleeting and fortunate life can be.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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