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18 Year old apprentice struck by lightning

Year 1778, Mr. Milward

Read by Sharmaine Malik – Trustee, Royal Humane Society

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July 5, 1778

Copy of a Letter from Mr. Milward.

On Sunday night, July 5, 1778, at about half past ten, I was called to the assistance of Peter Lucas, aged 18, apprentice to Mr. Hicks in White Lyon- Street, Norton Falgate, who was brought home upon boards, to all appearance dead, from a stroke of lightning. Upon entering the room; and examining the body, I found him both stiff and cold, not perceiving the least warmth in any part of the body or extremities: his fingers and toes were contracted, his eyes sunk, and his countenance livid.

I immediately with assistance stripped off his wet clothes, and with all possible expedition placed him between blankets made very hot. The assistants the used strong friction over the whole body. During this, I made a very large orifice in the bazilic vein, and procured by flow degrees near twelve ounces of blood.

Volatile and cardiac medicine were forced into the mouth, but for a considerable time to no effect, he being totally incapable of swallowing.

Large blistering plasters were applied to the whole spine of the back, and to both the feet. In half an hour I procured about eight ounces more blood, and by the repeated use of volatiles, together with the strongest frictions the whole time, at about half past eleven I perceived a very flight convulsive motion of the diaphragm, or hiccough; which was succeed some little time after by a slight warmth and irregular pulsation of the heart; and soon after by a very slow interrupted respiration.

Before twelve I perceived he began to swallow, and by steadily using the friction and volatiles for an hour longer, a regular pulsation ensued; the lungs performed their office; and a gradual heat, and recovery of every faculty succeeded. About one he spoke, though not articulately.

In the morning he was in a considerable fever, in great measure accounted for by the stimulus of the blisters, and the medicines applied the preceding night: but by the use of antiphlogistic regimen, together with occasional laxative, he was restored co the enjoyment of perfect health in the course of a week.

Upon the strictest examination of the body when first brought home, no external injury appeared, except a bruise along the right arm, which I presume he received either from the first fall, or at the time of being placed on the board for conveyance, either I think sufficiently accounting for such appearance.

Upon being questioned as to what had happened, he knew nothing but from the testimony of his companion, who was not in the least affected.

It appears that they had been at Islington, and were on their return caught in the storm near the turnpike at the London Apprentice, Hoxton; at which time the above Peter Lucas was struck down at the other’s feet. It further appears from the best calculation, that before he (James Jaques) could procure assistance, to have him conveyed home, and make application to me, an hour at least must have elapsed, during all which time he was in very heavy rain.

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