I Survived: Caught on Tape: Darren, Robin

A Second Chance

"I'm a professional cameraman, and I've been doing it for about 15 years," Darren says. "I was covering diving at the Olympics. One thing I was really excited about doing was seeing the Great Wall. It's one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Diving had a dark day, so we figured that was our only day to go up to the Great Wall. The weather was great for awhile, and then it started getting dark off in the distance, in the mountains, and all of a sudden it started pouring rain, and that's when I ducked into one of the stone lookout towers."

The next thing Darren remembers is picking himself up off the ground. "I was struck by lightning," he says. "I just couldn't really comprehend what had happened, and somehow it got me. I know I got hit on my hip because I have a scar there. I know it went out through my foot because my sock is blown out, it's burned and there's a hole in my shoe. And I know it hit my necklace because I have a scar and a burn. I didn't want to call my fiancée because I knew she was home by herself, and I didn't want to upset her."

Darren's fiancée, Robin, was at home in the States when she got the phone call. "My first reaction was that I would never see him again. I didn't know anything about lightning. My first instinct was that this is going to kill him," she says.

Almost six weeks have passed since the incident, but Darren is finding recovery to be very slow. "When I got home, I was on the couch all the time. I just couldn't do anything," he says.

"It was heartbreaking. I wanted to fix him," Robin says.

[AD]"It's very frustrating having this pain because I'm a very active person," Darren says. "I went back to work a month after it happened. Physically, I wasn't ready, but mentally, I needed it. I needed to know that I could get back and do it."

Robin says she's in a constant state of worry about Darren and wants him to stay home all the time. "I think we both just want to get past it," Robin says.

Darren wrestles with what it all means. "I think about, why am I here? What is my purpose in my life now? It feels like I just got a huge wake-up call and why did I get this second chance?" he asks.

Dr. Phil asks Dr. Stork, "What happens in your body when you get hit by lightning?"

"Well, first of all, one in 10 people who get struck by lightning will die almost instantly because it messes with the currents in your heart, and your heart will stop beating, so you got hit by lightning, but you dodged that bullet, OK?" Dr. Stork says. "And the other major thing that happens is it's neurological. This is an extreme amount of energy going through your body. This is a situation, Dr. Phil, where you can have long-term effects after being struck by lightning. But in your case, I think there's reason to have a lot of hope. Your medical prognosis is excellent."

Darren says that his mind was fuzzy for about a week. "Mentally, I'm definitely starting to clear. My muscles still feel really tight, and I'm trying to figure out " I just didn't know for the first couple of weeks what was going on. I couldn't get any answers from the doctors on what was going on with my body."

"But if he's patient, that should resolve, right?" Dr. Phil asks Dr. Stork.

"Absolutely," he says. "Looking at the picture there, the blast of the lightning threw you to the ground and against the wall. Not only are you dealing with the lightning strike, but that's a huge amount of bodily trauma as well, so you shouldn't feel perfect right now. You should absolutely not feel great."

"I know you're kind of sore all over, but you were hit by lightning," Dr. Phil jokes with Darren.

Darren laughs.


Dr. Phil brings up Darren's search for meaning. "You kind of feel like you should like go cure cancer or something? You should go stamp out disease and suffering in the world. You've been given a second chance. Is that what you're thinking?"

[AD]"Exactly," he says.  "I feel like this has made me realize the clock is ticking now. I've a certain amount of time left on the earth and what am I going to do with it?" Darren asks.

"You've got to look back and ask yourself what you didn't do before that, had you died that day, you would've said, ‘Dang it! I should've done this, I wish I had said that, I wish I had healed this relationship with my mom or my friend, or I wish I had gone back to school, or I wish I had worked less' or whatever it is that you didn't do before. This is a really good time to look at that," Dr. Phil tells him.

When asked what stands out in his mind as something he wants to focus on, Darren says his relationship with Robin. "Obviously, just getting engaged right before, it's like, all right, maybe we should push up this wedding a little [sooner,]" he says.

"Would you be OK with that?" Dr. Phil asks Robin.

"Oh yeah," she says.

"So see? There's a silver lining to this thunderstorm," Dr. Phil says. "And you asked the question ‘Why did I survive?'"

"Yeah, it's like, all right, this happened to me. Why did that happen? Why did I not die? Why did that electricity not go through my head and kill me?" Darren questions.

"And I don't know the answer to that. Sometimes people ask, ‘Why am I here? Why did I survive?' And my question is really kind of the opposite: Why not? Maybe it gives you a wake-up call, and you say, ‘I do want to make the best out of this.' But I can tell you one thing for sure: You have to walk out of this. You have to put one foot in front of the other," Dr. Phil says.

He turns to Robin and says, "And this stuff about keeping him on a short leash? That's the worst thing you could do for him, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically."

Turning back to Darren, he says, "You need to be patient because you are going to be weak for awhile. You really had an amazing electrical storm in your body and a whole lot of your neurology is probably scrambled at this point. And the fatigue, some of those things are going to come for awhile, and then they'll get better, right Travis?"

[AD]"Absolutely. It takes time. It's like anyone who runs a marathon or is in a car accident. When you undergo trauma like that, it takes time. You've just got to be patient," Dr. Stork says.

"You've got to let go and keep on living with your life, and you will find the reason why. You will find the purpose to be there," Dr. Phil tells Darren. "You're obviously very bright. You're very talented. But you do need to ask yourself those questions: ‘What would I do over if I had a second chance, which I do?'"