A month after being struck by lightning, 9-year-old Khye Felder sits comfortably between his parents and siblings, who joke that they can’t decide between the nicknames “Bolt” or “Mr. Lightning.”
Khye says he doesn’t remember the lightning strike. He only remembers waking up in the hospital and the following monthlong recovery process.
Family members, including his mother, Trina Felder, called his recovery incredible.
“It’s pretty cool, he has superpowers now,” Khye’s sister, Joy, joked. “He gains powers every day.”
Khye and his family spoke to reporters – and reunited with the police officer who helped save Khye’s life – at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department on Thursday.
Khye was throwing a javelin with his sister on June 25 at Johnson C. Smith University’s track when a storm cloud approached the school on the otherwise sunny day. Joy and their brother, Bryce, were standing near Khye when the lightning hit.
“It was like a big streak of light,” recalled Bryce, who saw the lightning strike his brother. “Then he was on the ground.”
Joy called 911 and told the operator that Khye’s eyes were open but he was unresponsive.
“My younger brother got hit by lightning, and we think he’s dead,” she said in the 911 call.
The operator instructed her to find a defibrillator and perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Trina Felder, the mother, said she had stepped away from the track for a few minutes to find some shade.
“I went around the corner,” she said. “It happened that quick.”
She heard the thunder from the lightning strike, which was so loud that her first thought was that there had been an earthquake.
Felder saw people running, heard yelling, and thought a fire had started on the field.
Then she spotted her son on the ground.
“I went and saw my son lying there,” she recalled. “I’m running towards him, you know, just like he’s going to get up by the time I get there. It’s just hard to imagine.”
She started to perform CPR on Khye, stopping only when Officer Brian Long and his partner arrived on the scene. Long took over until paramedics arrived.
Khye had CPR performed on him for about 15 minutes before regaining his own breathing and pulse.
Long had never answered a call for a lightning strike before, but the Police Department said his response is part of why Khye will eventually make a full recovery.
“At that point, training just kind of kicked in,” Long said. “I sit down, and the severity of it struck me.”
Trina Felder said Khye is still recovering. He cannot hear or see as well as he used to, and he has some nerve damage.
The bolt of lightning burned Khye’s clothes, she said, even his shoes. He suffered burns all over his body, including his neck and feet.
But Khye is able to talk, which he couldn’t do just after the incident because of problems with his vocal cords, and he can walk and run.
“Doctors can’t understand how he went that long without breathing,” Trina Felder said. “They are all amazed by his quick recovery.”
Khye’s father, David Felder, said his family now watches stories of other incidents on the news with a different appreciation.
“This time it was us,” he said. “Now we have one of those stories.”