Lenzie man struck by bolt of lightning still 'falling to bits' 20 years on

Campbell Gillespie has written a book about his death-defying experience
-Credit: (Image: Liverpool Echo)

A Lenzie taxi driver who was struck by lightning two decades ago has revealed he still suffers daily from the aftermath of the extraordinary incident.

Campbell Gillespie, hailing from Lenzie, East Dunbartonshire, was in the midst of a training run for a half marathon back in 2003 when he was hit squarely in the chest by a lightning bolt while running in a park in Prescott. The force of the strike hurled him 15 feet into the air, and he plummeted to the ground face first.

Remarkably, the lightning obliterated a gold chain he wore around his neck, yet the gold cross pendant emerged unscathed.

Now 60 years old and residing in Prescot, Merseyside with his wife Christine, Campbell contends with ongoing health issues stemming from that fateful lightning strike.

Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, he expressed his deteriorating condition: "I'm falling to bits.", reports the Daily Record.

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He elaborated on his struggles, saying, "My health's getting worse. It's taken me 21 years to learn to walk again, talk again, feed myself again. And I'm only 25 percent back to what I was before it happened. I walk with two sticks, and I'm looking at an amputation of my left leg - all because of a little moment on August 21, 2003."

The events of that day remain a blank for Campbell, who is one of the rare individuals to have survived a direct lightning strike.

It was the swift response of his companions that saved his life that day.

Campbell recounted the life-saving efforts: "My running mate kept me alive for 20 minutes while the paramedics were on their way. He couldn't give mouth-to-mouth because my face was destroyed. He just had to give me chest compressions - he literally punched me in the chest to keep me alive."

The electric shock was so powerful that it broke Campbell's jaw and shattered his teeth. His heart stopped three times, and he spent weeks in a coma.

He recalled: "My poor parents came down to see me and they didn't recognise me."

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Coming to terms with the incident was difficult for him. "It was hard to come to terms with. I was given the last rites. My heart stopped six times and I had four blood clots." he said.

Despite the odds, he survived, stating: "I'm too stubborn to die. Mother nature wanted me, but she couldn't have me."

One of the doctors who treated him, Dr Tristan Elkin, described his condition as if he had been "hit by a truck". He explained: "He had bleeding around the brain and his bones were smashed. The electricity must have transformed into kinetic energy which has added to the force with which he fell."

During his hospital stay, Campbell underwent a gruelling 14-hour operation. "The skin on my face was stretched back into place," he shared.

"I had a facelift for free, on the NHS. Joking aside, though, the pain was awful".

Now, as a taxi driver, he enjoys sharing his incredible story with passengers, although they rarely believe him. "I have to show them my chest where my gold chain vaporised into my skin," he says, laughing.

"Then they go, 'oh my God', and I don't hear another peep out of them."

According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, Britain sees between 30 and 60 lightning strikes on people annually, resulting in an average of three fatalities each year. A study by German researchers at Ilmenau University of Technology suggests that wet skin may actually lower the risk of death from a lightning strike.

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Campbell has penned 'Lightning Man', a book recounting his brush with death. When he's not behind the wheel as a taxi driver, he's a motivational speaker, sharing his remarkable tale to uplift others.

"My book's only short, but it packs a punch. It's about never giving up. People are struggling at the moment, and if I can help anybody by telling them about what happened, my work's done. That's all I need."

'Lightning Man' is available for purchase.