updated 10/1/2004 3:12:32 PM ET 2004-10-01T19:12:32

Hank Watson calls his son Whit “a miracle in progress.”

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Whit Watson, 15, was struck by lightning while helping repair a roof in Port Charlotte in August, five days after Hurricane Charley roared through. As he lay in a drug-induced coma that night, doctors warned his parents not to expect too much.

The slight teenager now is reasonably alert and can walk a little, although he’s still struggling with vision problems and short-term memory. He was listed in fair condition Thursday at Tampa General Hospital.

Whit is undergoing physical and speech therapy and hopes to get home soon. His family is shooting for Nov. 10 — his 16th birthday.

On Monday, Whit wore a red Tampa Bay Buccaneers sweat shirt and purple scrub pants as his father pushed him around the hospital in a wheelchair.

“I feel OK, I guess,” the boy said, adding that he wished he was able to see better. That will come in time, his father assured him.

“They never thought he’d get this far,” Hank Watson said of the doctors who have been treating his son. “He’s got some of them scratching their heads.”

'I want to go home'
Whit was standing on the roof of a house in Port Charlotte on Aug. 18, helping his uncle and another man patch a hole ripped open by Hurricane Charley. As he stood holding a piece of plastic, a lightning bolt shot out of a seemingly clear sky and struck him in the back of the head, then exited his left foot, leaving severe burns.

WATSON
Robert Azmitia  /  AP
Hank Watson, 51, father of Whit Watson, looks out a window while staying at the Ronald McDonald House at Tampa General Hospital on Aug. 27.
As the bolt shot down through the roof of the house in a fireball, Whit, a high school freshman, fell in a lifeless heap. Paramedics, who just happened to be at the end of the street, responded in minutes and managed to get his heart going with a jolt from a defibrillator.

Doctors at Tampa General warned that Whit suffered some brain damage because of lack of oxygen when his heart stopped. They say it may take as long as two years to determine the full extent.

Whit doesn’t remember anything about what happened to him. It’s only been in the past week or so that he’s become aware of his surroundings and could recognize his family. Doctors say he should continue to regain his faculties.

“Everything is still scrambled for him,” said his mother, Nancy Watson. “I’m sure in time that will all come back together. I just feel like it’s remarkable how far he’s come.”

His parents believe they’ll again see him rushing out of the house with his fishing tackle, headed off to one lake or another around his Sebring home to engage in his favorite pastime.

“We fully anticipate that he’ll make a full recovery,” Hank Watson said. A huge homecoming party is already in the works.

“I want to go home,” Whit said.

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