Brynnlee Steger was working her regular lifeguard shift at the pool when a storm was on the horizon in Landis, North Carolina. The 15-year-old and her boss had to take down the umbrellas before the wind carried them away, but as Brynnlee was completing her duties, a strike of lightning changed her life.
“I was standing here, and I had bent down to unscrew the bolts underneath the table,” said Brynlee as she explained what she was doing before the lightning struck. “By the time I turned around, I felt it. It hit me, and I felt like my arm had literally got cut off.”
On Monday, Sonya, Brynlee’s mother, and lifeguard manager Mackenzie Chabala, helped to quickly take down umbrellas in the middle of a severe storm. Chabala said she regrets sending her staff member to work in the middle of the storm.
“We were just doing our best, and what we thought was the best thing for the pool,” said Chabala. “We were just grabbing those umbrellas, we didn’t want them to fly away. We’ve had umbrellas fly during winds so we were just trying to bring them into the shelter so it wouldn’t cause any other issues.”
Mackenzie called 911 after she and Sonya helped Brynnlee into the pool’s concession area, covering her in blankets to help with the shock.
“I just saw orange and blue, like a mass right beside me,” recalled Sonya. “When it hit, at that moment it was just pure fear, not knowing if she was going to be OK.”
Brynnlee walked away with some nerve damage after she spent 24 hours in the hospital. Doctors said she would need physical therapy to help rebuild her muscles.
“I’m still trying to wrap my head around it,” said Brynnlee. “It’s insane to think that we could be burying me today. I’m hearing so many people say I’m like a walking miracle.”
A story she’ll tell for the rest of her life and a prayer that lightning won’t strike the same place twice.
“She had four or five people come up to her, ‘You need to buy a lottery ticket.'” said Sonya. “I guess she’s lucky. She’s my miracle baby.”
The pool is currently closed after, pool staff said, another lightning bolt struck their pool pump. As for Brynnlee, she hopes to return to school next week.
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