Struck by Lightning

A message from our President, Steve Bissonnette

It was Monday morning, August 17,2015. VISTE staff and volunteers quickly realized that the computers and phones were down again, no doubt the effect of summer storms over that weekend. It wasn’t the first time and the remedy usually doesn’t take long to get everyone back online. Nothing to worry about!

But this was different. As the day went on it became increasingly evident that the damage to our system was more profound than usual. None of the typical corrective measures seemed to work. Ashley and I were able to locate breaker switches that had been tripped, cutting electrical to several offices, yet still most of our equipment was down. We then called both IT and Telephone service contractors to get their help.

IT technicians quickly identified switching equipment that had been damaged. They then called in a different team member with greater knowledge of our specific system and layout. After replacing the switching gear and spending six hours on-site he was able to get most of our system back online.

Two phones still did not work, however, and they both belonged to mission critical personnel. Regrettably, it wasn’t until Friday morning before our contractor was able to arrive with replacement phones in-hand. Once there, both phones were quickly installed and we were back up and fully operational. Or so we thought until Monday morning when many of our computers were not functional again. The IT contractor came back and determined that additional new equipment was required to get everything back to full working order.

After our initial focus on computers and phones we started finding other equipment that no longer worked. We discovered surge protectors on the main electrical panels outside the building had blown and the new generator unit was not working. An electrical contractor quickly identified nearly $2,000 in parts had been “fried” and would need to be replaced before the generator could be put back in service.

It became increasingly evident that VISTE had been on the receiving end of a lightning strike. While there was no physical damage to the building indicating a direct hit, we had clearly experienced a major electrical surge that affected the entire structure.

By now some of you are wondering; why is he going on so about the effects of a lightning strike on the VISTE building? Well, as the series of events related to that incident unfolded, I was reminded of another memorable day.

It was November 30, 2013 when my mom was rushed to the hospital with what appeared to be a heart attack. After trying to manage her chest pains and labored breathing as best she could she finally called 911 for help. Within minutes an ambulance was rushing her to the hospital where a team of specialists were on hand to provide immediate treatment.

For the next two and a half months my mother went back and forth from the hospital to a rehab center in a nursing home. Her whole world changed as a result of that experience. It was during that period that she decided at age 91 it was time not to live on her own anymore and to turn over the keys to her car. Both of those topics were previously off-limits for discussion.

Looking back now, it was as if my fiercely independent mother and our entire family were struck by lightning that fateful day and our lives would be forever changed.

Since that time I’ve become more attuned to stories of other people’s lives that have been changed in an instant where many tell of “the fall” or “the accident” that changed everything. I’ve come to realize that those with family and loved one’s to care for them are extremely fortunate, especially those who are elderly and on fixed incomes. Many are left to navigate these life changes virtually alone and without the financial resources to afford in-home care or assisted living. For them, VISTE often becomes their most valuable resource and, for some, their only lifeline.

Since lightning storms are a regular occurrence this time of year, next time you see one, remember that people’s lives are figuratively “struck by lightning” every day.

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