LAFOLLETTE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Seth Baird commutes to Oak Ridge from La Follette for work. His girlfriend Alice Tran, sits waiting at home.
The 23-year-old woman dreams of becoming a dental hygienist. She was set to begin a program in late August, but a day on the beach quickly became a nightmare in July.
Baird and Tran were at the Isle of Palms near Charleston, South Carolina. They were enjoying the warm sand and salty waters.
"I just remember them laughing and smiling," Baird said.
A strong storm was brewing overhead. Another group of friends was also on the beach playing catch. Baird and Tran didn't think much of it. That all changed with the blink of an eye.
"I always describe it as quick as flipping a light switch," Baird said.
A lightning bolt struck down, and hit the waters right near where Baird and Tran were standing. Baird woke up, a mouth full of salty water. "I remember my chest feeling really heavy," he said.
Tran's sister, Heaven was screaming and pointing. Tran was right next to them.
"She was floating face up in the water," he said.
Tran had no pulse or heartbeat at the time. The other beachgoers raced to help. They tried CPR to bring Tran's body back to life. "There was nothing else I knew we could do."
Paramedics arrived on scene and used a defibrillator to get a heartbeat. They did, but Alice was still in critical condition.
They rushed her to a nearby hospital where doctors put her into a medically induced coma for several days. Tran's family and boyfriend feared she may never wake up.
"We prayed a lot together, me and her did," Baird said. "What else could you do in a situation like that? You don't know."
Alice did eventually wake up, but with no recollection of what happened that day in Charleston.
"I remember waking up and thinking: 'what am i doing here?'" Tran said.
She spent about two more week in the ICU before the family could make their way back to East Tennessee.
"The only thing I'm walking away with is very minor when you're thinking about it," Tran said.
She said she still deals with some pain at home and will soon start physical therapy. Her dental hygienist classes are just around the corner, and she still plans on attending.
"I'm very grateful. I feel like I still have a reason to be here," Tran said.
And now, she still has a new outlook on storms. "Why would you be out there in a storm?" Tran asked. "But that's what we typically did a month ago."