“Struck by Lightning!” Ensign, Feb. 1995, 19
The high-voltage lightning charge detonated like a cannon and lit up the sky. Kevin Gallacher, who was riding his horse behind his brother-in-law, Rodney Cox, jumped at the sound. Rodney, too, had straightened in his saddle. But when both Rodney and his horse collapsed on the trail, Kevin knew that Rodney hadn’t just been startled. He’d been hit by lightning.
Kevin jumped off his horse and ran to where Rodney lay face down and motionless on the path. Just a few feet away was Rodney’s hat, with a charred hole the size of a cantaloupe in it.
Kevin’s wife, Janine, and Debra Britton (both Rodney’s sisters) had been riding with the men as well. They, too, had seen Rodney fall to the ground, but the spectacular noise had spooked their horses. As the two women wrestled with their nervous mounts, Kevin immediately placed his hands on Rodney’s head, blessing him that his spirit would enter his body again.
Debra was able to calm her horse and joined Kevin at her brother’s side. Several minutes passed without his breathing. “It seemed like hours because he remained so lifeless,” she remembers now. There was a strong smell of burned flesh, and they both felt certain that he had sustained serious injuries.
“Rodney, squeeze my hand,” Debra pleaded. Nothing.
“Can you wiggle your fingers?” she asked next. Still nothing.
The family had planned this Saturday morning ride as a nostalgic, relaxing activity. Riding horses had always been a favorite family pastime. In fact, the family had a tradition of participating together in the annual Castleview Valley Pageant. They had all returned to the area near their childhood home to continue that tradition. The pageant’s closing performance was that night, August 7, and then the families would return to their homes the next day.
The storm had come up suddenly, and within minutes the sky had darkened. Rain had turned to hail, and the group had hunched over, plodding forward and waiting for the storm to pass by. Then the lightning had struck.
Fortunately the hail had stopped after Rodney was hit, but the chilling rain continued. The family was miles from any medical assistance. With Rodney lying in the trail, they prayed for help and guidance.
Suddenly, the rain stopped. The sun shone brightly. “It was like the Lord had blown away the clouds and let the sun shine on us because we had no blankets to keep warm,” says Kevin.
Sitting on the ground, Kevin rolled Rodney over on his back and gently cradled him on his lap. It was like lifting dead weight. Again Kevin put his hands on his brother-in-law’s head.
“I blessed him that he would be able to breathe,” Kevin recalls. “I expressed my feeling that it was not his time to die; that his family was not yet in a position to continue without his leadership. I expressed my hope that his newborn son, Carson, would see his father’s good example as he grew to manhood, and I expressed my belief that he yet had a great work to do.” Closing the blessing in the name of Jesus Christ, Kevin looked up at Debra and Janine.
After the prayer, the three felt strongly that things would be all right. Janine left to get help. Heading toward the pageant site, she fought panic and fear, praying almost constantly for faith and strength.
Janine rode seven or eight miles before she found a camper near the pageant site who was able to dispatch an SOS message to a ham radio operator in Vernal, Utah, who then sent the message on to Price. The Emery County ambulance, stationed thirty miles away, was notified and sent out.
Back on the trail, Rodney struggled—and took a small gasp of air. Kevin and Debra were thrilled as his breath sputtered out and his body quivered. He was breathing, and he was alive! There was no doubt in their minds that it was a miracle.
The pair continued to pray, asking Heavenly Father to calm the horses and temper the elements and keep Rodney warm and breathing. As they waited, Kevin reflected back to when his home teachers, Gary White and his son, Lance, had visited a month earlier. Their lesson had focused on prayer.
Brother White had expressed how important it is to be exact in prayer. He had testified that the Lord wants us to be specific when we ask for the blessings we need. Gazing down at his brother-in-law, Kevin knew how much Rodney’s family needed him to be able to speak and function. The Holy Ghost touched his heart and the Spirit fed his thoughts as he proceeded to give Rodney another blessing.
Kevin blessed Rodney’s specific organs—his heart, lungs, stomach, liver, bones, muscles, and nerves. He blessed Rodney’s brain that he would be able to walk, talk, see, feel, touch, hear, communicate, and understand.
“As I gave the blessing, I felt overwhelmed,” Kevin says. “I was shaking. I felt that Heavenly Father would allow his healing power to be poured out on Rodney in spite of all my weaknesses. It was truly a testimony of the power of the Holy Ghost, the priesthood, and our Heavenly Father. As I closed the blessing, a peaceful, calm feeling came over me, and I knew Rodney would live and function normally.”
Just before Kevin heard the sirens of rescue vehicles, Rodney opened his eyes. “Rodney, we love you,” Debra whispered. “I love you.”
“I love you,” he said.
Medics finally arrived. En route to the hospital thirty miles away, the medical technician asked Kevin if he had given Rodney any CPR or resuscitation. Kevin admitted he had no advanced first-aid knowledge. His only response had been to administer a priesthood blessing.
“I believe that blessing saved this young man’s life,” replied the technician, who was also a Latter-day Saint.
Rodney’s wife, Gayleen, had been notified of his accident and drove to the sheriff’s office with her children. While her two daughters cried for their father, Gayleen felt a deep feeling of peace. “It was odd—I’m usually a very panicky person,” she admits. “I’m sure I was able to remain calm because of the many prayers offered on our behalf.”
Doctors at the hospital initially thought that Rodney would require emergency transportation to the University of Utah Medical Center in Salt Lake City or to another larger hospital. However, after the hospital emergency room doctor completed several tests, he approached the family, asking if any of them had given Rodney CPR. Another doctor came out of the examining room to repeat the same question. After receiving a negative answer, he threw his hands up into the air. “It’s unbelievable,” he exclaimed. “His heart never skipped a beat. It’s amazing!”
Careful examination showed that Rodney had sustained some injury. The lightning had burned a scar from the crown of Rodney’s head down to the back of his neck. At that point, the lightning charge split, and burn marks circled his neck as if he were wearing a necklace. The two burn lines zigzagged down his body. One exited his body in a deep gash two inches above his groin; the other line exited near his right knee.
Diagnostic tests at the hospital revealed that injuries other than the burns were very minor. The lightning had melted his hair, and one eardrum had burst from the loud clap of thunder accompanying the lightning strike. One side of Rodney’s face and the bottoms of his feet were numb. The lining of his stomach and part of his liver were burned, but most of these injuries healed within a short time. The doctors reassured Rodney’s family that he would recover completely.
Although his injuries were not as serious as first believed, Rodney passed in and out of consciousness for a couple of days. However, he was released after only three days in the hospital. Recuperating at home, with his wife and three children at his side, Rodney noticed that sounds were magnified by his damaged eardrum. At a family reunion, he asked his father for a priesthood blessing. From his wheelchair, Gary Cox, who has multiple sclerosis, laid his hands upon his son’s head. The next day, Rodney’s ear afflictions were gone. At his next checkup, the doctor was surprised at how quickly his ear had healed.
Three weeks and two days after the lightning strike, Rodney returned to work at the coal mine where he is employed. His co-workers teased him about his new hairstyle.
But there was nothing funny about Rodney’s recovery. Looking at his hat, Rodney knew it was a miracle that the lightning did not kill him. “My spiritual understanding has been increased immensely through this experience, and I think of it every day. I know that Kevin was able, through the priesthood, to call upon the powers of heaven to bless me and my family.”