After several years of traveling and working various jobs in construction; such as laborer, equipment operator, Lineman, Project Superintendent and electrician. I was excited to go to work every day at a new job as a union maintenance electrician for a local pulp and paper mill, no more travel, a good income and stability.
The job that day was investigating why a 200 amp 12,500 volt power line was shorting out and shutting down a section of the mill the night before. I was a healthy 6’3” 240 lb man who loved his work, my attitude was getting the job done. Besides it was Friday afternoon and I had plans. We had an hour and forty minutes to get the job done before the end of the day,” Let’s go guys I got plans, I don’t have time for overtime.”
While the power house electrical crew and others watched from the ground, I was running a test on the power line with a consultant also in my bucket truck. The conversation on the ground and in the bucket truck was “what are you doing this weekend? The weather is supposed to be nice.” As I leaned over the bucket rail to stretch my back, my whole world changed. I never saw it coming, a sharp pain and a buzzing sound in my right ear and a blood curdling scream coming from my mouth. I had leaned back and touched the supposably de-energized power line with my right earlobe. Every muscle and organ in my body convulsed and contracted, and my heart stopped. This caused me to collapse, falling back into the power line and hitting it a second time with the back of my head. In less than a second, life changed as I was being cooked alive. Fire and electricity was shooting out of me in fifteen places resulting in electrical burns over 37% of my body.
My first memory was in the emergency room feeling as though I was still on fire. And the smell, it’s something my wife will never forget, that smell of burned flesh and hair.
Three weeks later lying in a hospital bed in the burn unit at Harborview Medical Center, they told me that I had suffered permanent brain and spinal cord damage from the high voltage electrical trauma and would never walk again. But then again, I’m not supposed to be alive. When I was released from intensive care I had my first surgery. It was 7 years before I finally went 12 months in a row without a surgery. I’ve had so many surgeries now that I lost count, well over fifty.
With a new zest for life and an attitude to match, let me tell you what I can do with only 40% use of my legs and a few extra pounds in metal parts. I spend time camping and four wheeling with family, an occasional golf game with friends, or a motorcycle trip with my wife. But above all, my mission is to promote safety and spare others the trauma I had to endure.
My story of 12.5 Still Alive, Life After 12,500 Volts, talks about the ripple effect an injury has on a person, there family, coworkers and community. The message and story is straight from my heart and I tell it like it is. This is REALITY!
IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU!
What separates Gary as a premiere speaker is his passion for safety and his ability to get the point across to anyone who will listen.
Along with detailed and graphic images of what his life has been like since the day his body was energized with 12,500 volts, Gary shares the affects his accident has had on his family, marriage, community and co-workers.
Gary has been told many times that his images alone tell a powerful story.