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Swindon's Joe Compton looks back at the day he was strucik by lightning
Buy this photo » STAR TURN Joe Compton with Town players Alan McCormack, Miles Storey and Paul Benson Pictures: JAMES DOUGLAS
BRAVE 11-year-old Joe Compton is so lucky to be alive that his friends think of him as a superhero.
Last month, Joe was waiting to be picked up outside the gates of Dorcan Technology College when the unthinkable happened – he was struck by a bolt of lightning that caused his heart to stop, burst his ear drums and caused severe burns across 22 per cent of his body.
The youngster, a big Swindon Town and Arsenal fan, has told how he was in the wrong place at the wrong time after being kept behind for a brief detention after school. He then waited at a different gate to the one his aunt was parked at, waiting to collect him.
And his mum Emma Dean, of Park South, said she feared the worst after doctors at Great Western Hospital and later at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol warned her it was extremely unlikely Joe would survive.
Joe, who was only let out of hospital last week following surgery for skin grafts, said: “I do feel kind of lucky and I feel all right now. I can’t really remember anything that happened that day or even waking up in the hospital but I know I had detention after school so I was a little bit late coming out. I went to the other gate to where my auntie was waiting.
“I don’t remember the pain at the time or afterwards because I blacked out.”
Emma, a single mum-of-two, recalls getting a phone call from her dad George to tell her Joe had been taken to hospital.
“It was just a normal Wednesday, waiting for them to come home, but then I got a call from my dad to say Joe had been hit by lightning,” the 29-year-old said.
“I didn’t believe him, I thought it was a wind up. You never think anything like that would happen to your son.
“My dad picked me up and we went to GWH. We got there before Joe and were waiting in the resuscitation part near A&E. When they burst through the doors it did not look like Joe – he had all this medical equipment, tubes and wires on because he was on life support.
“He has what I can only describe as something like bubble wrap on his body. They would not let me see him as they needed to resuscitate him and cut off his clothes.
“It was horrible when I did go and see him as all I could see were his eyes, which were shut. He wasn’t breathing on his own and the hospital did not think he was going to pull through – I thought he was going to die.
“When he was transferred to Frenchay the specialist burns surgeon said he had never dealt with a lightning strike in his 25 years in the job. He had to get advice from the person who taught him in Canada, who himself had only ever dealt with one person.
“Lots of people who get hit by lightning don’t survive so Joe is very lucky and so are we.”
Emma said she still knows very little about the exact circumstances of the freak incident, which set Joe’s school uniform ablaze and blew a hole in the bottom of one of his favourite Arsenal FC trainers.
She said: “His friend who was with him at the time was on the phone and had turned his back to Joe. All he could say was he saw the flash and turned around to see Joe lying face down on the floor. Joe’s heart stopped and he was unconscious almost immediately. I have to thank the staff at the Dorcan Rec Centre who gave him first aid – they were amazing.
“Even the doctors are not too sure where the lightning struck him because there is no exit wound, which they would expect.
“He’s getting back to his old self. He still loves computer games and his auntie whispered to him while he was on life support that she would buy him a PS3 if he pulled through – the first thing he said when he woke up was ‘where’s my PS3?’”
The youngster now has to wait six weeks before being fitted for a special body suit to help with his burns, while he cannot be exposed to direct sunlight for at least two years and has to use cream daily.
Swindon Town FC invited Joe to the County Ground for a special meet and greet with the first-team and presented him with a signed shirt, as well as donating one his uncle Shane Dean had ordered printed with ‘Lucky’ and the number one on the back.
Joe said: “It was great meeting the players – Matt Ritchie is my favourite.”
Shane said: “He loved it and we have to thank Karen Randall at the club for sorting it all out so quickly.
“He’s had loads of cards and messages on Facebook. All his mates all think he’s some kind of superhero.”