Burns surgery for lightning victim

Posted: June 20, 2007

A Cherry Hill boy who was struck by lightning June 12 underwent surgery yesterday to repair his severely burned skin.

Zachary Yizzi, 14, suffered burns over 38 percent of his body when a bolt erupted a week ago during a violent late-afternoon thunderstorm.

The eighth grader at Carusi Middle School received several skin grafts at the Temple University Hospital Burn Center. He was in critical but stable condition following surgery, his family said this morning. He remains under heavy sedation and on a ventilator.

He has not been able to speak since the lightning strike.

"Doctors have said all tests show normal or better," said his grandfather, John Foglia. "However, until he is able to speak, they will not know for sure if he sustained any side effects from the lightning strike."

Yizzi had just left a friend's house when a storm broke out. As he hurried home underneath a patch of tree branches on Monroe Avenue, a bolt of lightning tore across the sky. It struck a tree, then continued by searing through the boy's body and setting his shirt on fire.

"He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time," Foglia said.

Foglia credits the quick thinking of neighbors and the expertise of Cherry Hill emergency workers for saving his grandson's life.

"If it wasn't for them and the trauma center, Zach might not be here," he said.

The neighbors sprang into action after hearing a loud crack, police said. They looked out the window and spotted Zach lying face down on the ground. As one called 911, another ran to smother the flames with his own shirt.

Yizzi was unconscious and had no pulse when paramedics arrived. The emergency team revived him and took him to Cooper University Hospital. He was later transferred to Temple.

He continues to improve, Foglia said. Although he is sedated, he wakes up occasionally. When that happens, his mother and father calm him and he returns to sleep.

"We keep praying," Foglia said. "We know he's going to be OK. He is getting the best care possible. All we can do is wait and hope."

Contact staff writer Sam Wood at 856-779-3838 or at samwood@phillynews.com.

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