If you MUST get struck by lightning, San Jough picked the right place to do it.
It was an ordinary Sunday on July 27, 2008 at Tanglewood, the popular Berkshire County summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Western Massachusetts. Patrons were lining up for the afternoon program of Mendelssohn and Beethoven, while Major Thomas Grady and his fellow Deputies from the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office Uniformed Division prepared for their assigned security duties.
Jough, a 40-year-old real estate agent from Westwood, New Jersey, was making his first visit to Tanglewood along with his wife, Mari, and their two young children, Peter, 10, and Sarah, 7. As a thunderstorm approached, little did they know that Mr. Jough’s life would soon rest in the skilled hands of Major Grady and his colleagues from the Uniformed Division of the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office.
The Jough family was lined up with other patrons at Tanglewood’s Main Gate, where Major Grady was stationed. It just so happens that Major Grady is a 25-year veteran EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) and is a widely respected instructor trainer for the American Heart Association and Red Cross. He was named “Basic Life Support Provider of the Year” by the Emergency Medical Services of Berkshire County in 2004, and is in charge of all training for the Sheriff’s Uniformed Division.
As a steady rain developed into a severe thunderstorm on that day at Tanglewood, Deputies started to take action and the Joughs considered their options.
“Our protocol is to open up our buildings (including the 5,000-seat Music Shed) and allow people inside if we see a storm coming,” Tanglewood Director of Facilities David Sturma said. “The Deputies advise them to seek shelter. We all work together. It’s a very good team.”
Deputies were able to monitor the approaching weather through Tanglewood facilities and on their cell phones, and grew concerned when they witnessed several cloud-to-ground lightning strikes on nearby mountains.
Although people were advised to stay in their cars and avoid using metal umbrellas, some started coming in during a slight lull in the storm.
Around this time, the Jough family decided to enter the grounds through the Student’s Gate, several yards to the left of the Main Gate — despite Mrs. Jough’s suggestion to remain in the car.
“That was mistake number one,” Mr. Jough told the Berkshire Eagle newspaper.
Just yards inside the gate, a powerful bolt struck the tree over the Jough family, blasting the tree apart and sending electricity through the umbrella that Mr. Jough had just taken from one of his children. The bolt entered Mr. Jough’s chest and exited his leg, leaving him unconscious, not breathing, face down in a puddle. A large branch also struck him in the head. The blast knocked son Peter off his feet and propelled him 10 feet, but he was uninjured.
“The flash blinded me” said Deputy Carl Bolio, an electrician who is used to minor low-voltage accidents, and who was standing less than 100 yards from the incident. “This was about 30 times more extreme. It felt like a hard punch in the chest.”
Another Deputy, Colonel Michael Garvey, saw the victim go down from the Main Gate, and was the first to call out “Man down.” He, Grady and Captain David Lein responded from the Main Gate, Bolio from the grounds and Captain Fran Metivier and Deputy Anthony Sinico from the gate near where the Joughs had entered – all less than 50 yards from the incident.
Responding Deputies thought at first they were dealing with a man hit by a tree branch, “but as soon as I rolled him over, I knew there was a burn involved,” Grady said after assessing the emergency.
That is when Grady kicked it into high gear.
After detecting neither a pulse nor breathing, Grady initiated chest compressions, while a doctor from the crowd commenced rescue breathing. Immediately, Grady directed the other Deputies to alert a nearby ambulance crew, and to bring an AED (automated external defibrillator) and a stretcher. Although pouring rain and lightning continued around them, Major Grady and the doctor succeeded through chest compressions and rescue breaths to re-establish Mr. Jough’s pulse and breathing. Less than five minutes after the lightning strike, he was on a stretcher, on the way to the ambulance and a waiting trauma team at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, a Level 1 trauma center 10 miles north of Tanglewood. Mr. Jough had no feeling on his left side, and was still in a life-threatening situation, but he regained some consciousness in the ambulance, much to Grady’s relief.
“He spoke and asked the EMT what happened,” Grady recalled. “I won’t say it was a relief, but it was like you could take that big sigh for a few seconds.”
“I really don’t remember what happened,” Mr. Jough said. “I blacked out and woke up in the ambulance.”
Captain Lein drove the victim’s family to the hospital, where Mr. Jough was stabilized and Mrs. Jough was able to meet with Major Grady.
“I remember her leaning over and whispering that she needed to be strong for Mr. Jough and the children,” Grady recalled. “Sometimes in this business, you can become hardened to dealing with traumatic incidents. But those words brought tears to my eyes because during all that was happening, her concern was for her family, not herself.”
Later, the Deputies involved had a chance to assess what they had been through.
“In 30 years at Tanglewood, I’ve never seen anything like this,” Colonel Garvey said. “I can’t say enough about what Tommy Grady did. I thought sure the guy was dead.”
Grady described the whole ordeal as a “textbook case for CPR training. You had a witnessed cardiac arrest, immediate response with CPR and AED available, an ambulance and EMTs nearby, ALS (Advance Life Support) on the way and the trauma team at the hospital notified and standing by. It couldn’t have gone any better for him.”
“I have been an EMT for 25 years and experienced many different types of calls, but this was a first for me,” said Grady, who was called upon for search and rescue duties at Ground Zero following the 9-11 attacks in New York, and who worked security for the Democratic National Convention in Boston. “It was also the first time that I responded to a call where immediate intervention with CPR helped with a successful outcome.”
Grady was also quick to deflect praise to his fellow deputies, who quickly summoned help, alerted the nearby ambulance crew, controlled and protected the Tanglewood crowd, tended to the needs of Mr. Jough’s family and assisted with the stretcher. They also quickly notified both an Advanced Life Support Unit and the hospital, so that a paramedic unit could intercept the ambulance en route and so that the trauma team could be assembled at the hospital for the victim’s arrival.
In an email to Grady, Mr. Jough said. “I truly feel that you did save my life…My family wants to thank the entire Berkshire Sheriff’s Office for its due diligence and fantastic professionalism.”
Mr. Jough was stabilized at Berkshire Medical Center, then flown by medical helicopter to a medical center nearer his home in Westwood, N.J., located about 20 miles northwest of New York City. Within a couple of weeks, he said he had regained the feeling in his left side that had been numbed by the strike, and that the entry and exit wounds left by the lightning were healing faster than expected. He said he still had some lingering issues with hearing, smell and balance.
“I would like to thank all the people who helped save his life,” Mrs. Jough added. “Without such a quick response and rescue, I really don’t know what kind of outcome we’d be facing…The incident was very scary to us, but without your help, he wouldn’t have survived, I believe.”
Uniformed Division Deputies perform volunteer and paid details throughout Berkshire County after undergoing a 154-hour Massachusetts Intermittent Reserve Police Training regimen.
Major Grady credits a strict training regimen for preparing the Deputies to respond to such emergencies.
“Every month at our meetings we have training, and every year we update CPR training and do a refresher in catastrophic events,” said Grady, who is in charge of training for the Uniformed Division. “It’s repetitive, and you’re hoping it never happens, but you hope your training kicks in when something bad happens, and it does.”
“You talk about repetition in training,” Lein added. “Because of that, on that day, there was no hesitation on anybody’s part. I’ll never complain again about doing something over and over.”
“For our department as well as for all other public safety agencies, the successful outcome of any traumatic or catastrophic event is pre-planning,” said Grady, who is also vice chairman of the Western Massachusetts Regional Homeland Security Council, and chairman of its training and exercise committee. “Having a plan, training, exercising the plan and constantly working to improve response is critical to providing the highest level of public safety service to the community.”