A River Hills resident struck by lightning on June 30 near Riverview’s Williams Park is making progress on the road to recovery. While Levi Stock, 11, doesn’t remember much of what happened that day, it’s a day his family will never forget.
He and his parents, along with his 9-year-old sister, Ivy, were on the family’s Ranger fishing boat when the strike occurred. His father, Derek, had taken a half-day off work to spend time with his two youngest children while his older children (Maya, 15, and Toby, 12) were at a church camp. The family put the boat in the water at Williams Park and then spent some time fishing. As the afternoon got warmer, the family decided to anchor off Pine Key Tampa Bay, also known as Beer Can Island, to cool off by swimming in the bay.
Derek noticed dark clouds rolling in from the west, so they decided to head back to Williams Park. “We thought we were being proactive because we were one of the first boats to leave the island,” he said.
They approached the boat ramp, feeling relief that they would soon be off the water. While they could see lightning strikes far off in the distance, the sun was shining and it hadn’t started raining yet. Levi was at the front of the bow, getting ready to jump off with a rope to dock the boat when a bolt of lightning struck him, entering through his tailbone and exiting out his left foot. The force stopped his heart and knocked him into the water.
His dad quickly jumped into the water after him and the pair were pulled out of the water by good Samaritans, who hauled them onto their boat. Levi was unresponsive, so his dad immediately began performing CPR while his mom called 911 from their own boat.
A few frantic minutes later, sheriff’s officers arrived and attached Levi to an automated external defibrillator. An ambulance arrived soon after and rushed the boy to Tampa General Hospital. When his family, who had driven separately, arrived at the hospital, he was incoherent.
“They didn’t find any internal burning or brain swelling, but the doctors told us it takes time for the brain to reboot,” he said.
Levi was discharged from Tampa General Hospital on July 4 and continues to recover at home. He was prescribed burn ointment and painkillers, and he has bruising on his body where the lightning travelled through his body.
“Every day he’s getting better, and the doctors expect him to make a full recovery,” said Derek.
Levi said he feels pretty good, but sometimes he feels pain in the lower half of his body. Doctors have told him to lay low and take it easy — not easy for an active 11-year-old boy. He looks forward to being able to play outside and go swimming again.
While this wasn’t how he planned to spend his summer vacation, he is thankful for everyone who has helped him get better. He’s also thankful for his congregation at FishHawk Fellowship Church, who sent him get-well cards and letters.
“It feels pretty good to know that people have been praying for me,” he said.
One exciting development is the family will soon be getting another family member.
“When he was in the hospital, I told him that if he got better, we’d buy him a bearded dragon as a pet, something he’s always wanted,” said Derek, who plans to make good on his promise. Levi has already picked out a name for his new pet: Franky.
Derek said he has learned a few things from this experience: His son is a trooper and a tough kid, he is grateful for everyone that has helped his family during this challenging time and being CPR certified can save a life.
The family looks forward to getting back on the water, but their boat, which Derek spent two years refurbishing, was irreparably damaged by the lightning strike.
“All the electronics are fried and smoke was coming out of the engine,” he said.
Derek hopes to get another boat one day to help his family get back on the water. “The sooner I get another boat, the sooner we can get back on the water and remove any fear they have,” he said.