Engineering Dignity
4:44

Engineering Dignity

Katelyn Toth and her stepbrother were riding a paddleboat on a small lake near Bremen, Indiana, in 2006 when a storm whipped out of nowhere and unleashed a lightning bolt, the lone strike in a 60-mile radius.

While her stepbrother suffered only a slight shock, Katelyn took the full force of the sudden strike. Lightning bolts can be so powerful they vaporize the sap in a tree and cause a steam explosion that blows apart the trunk. Katelyn suffered third-degree burns across her face, neck and torso.

The 12-year-old who loved softball, played the clarinet, rescued earthworms on the driveway after rainstorms, and once brought 27 frogs home to her basement was not expected to live. She was airlifted to two different hospitals. She lingered in a coma-like state for months, her brain severely shocked. Doctors at a special burn unit in Kalamazoo, Michigan, told her mother, Julie Noblitt, that Katelyn would never walk or talk again.

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