Survival

Zapped by 12,000 volts!

Busy working on the roof of a house, Philip had no idea how close he was to death.
Philip Pohlner

 Philip Pohlner, 58, Withcott, Qld

As a tradesman, I was on top of a house, fitting safety rails around a metal roof frame. A powerline above the house carried 12,000 volts. I knew I needed to stay well clear of it. Although the rail I was carrying stuck out behind me, it wasn’t 
in danger of touching the line.


But suddenly I saw a flash of blue. In a split second, a bolt of electricity jumped from the wire to the rail. Immediately, I threw the rail as far away from the house as I could. If it touched the metal roof, the whole house could 
be electrified.

Then, in an instant, I was 
lying flat on my back.

But suddenly I saw a flash of blue.

Dazed and confused, I couldn’t feel any pain, but a burning smell hung in the air and my thick gloves were scorched on the palms. My whole body felt hot. 
I’d been electrocuted!

The electricity must have gone through my hands and into me. But where had the voltage left my body? Looking down, I saw a tiny hole in my boot near my big toe.

My colleague Brad had arrived with some other workers. When my gloves and boots were taken off, it was clear I’d been badly injured. My palms had deep burns, like holes. My right foot was burnt too and my big toe was black and charred.

Strangely, my left foot was fine but when I lifted up my shirt there was a burn on the left side 
of my stomach. I must have had my left foot lifted when the bolt struck, I thought. It had surged out of my stomach instead.

I still felt like I was burning up, and now the pain started to set in. When the paramedics arrived, they gave me morphine before I was flown to a burns unit in Brisbane.

The damage was so extensive that my burnt toe had to be amputated. I needed skin grafts on my foot, stomach and hands.

I’ve also been left with a heart murmur, but my doctor said I was very lucky to be alive. ‘We usually have to remove limbs after an accident like this,’ he said. After five weeks in hospital, I was well enough to go home.

Today, 
I’m doing well with the support 
of my children, Brock, 25, 
Jake, 23, and Greta, 21. I’m so grateful for every day.

Originally published in that’s life! Issue 29, 2016.

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