One year ago today I was sitting on my couch attending a conference call. The power went 'thump' - which disconnected me from my call. After a few seconds the power came back on, and I dialed back into my conference call. Then the local phone line rang. Normally when I'm busy I would ignore that phone, so I'm not sure what prompted me to pick up. On the other end was a hysterical, crying voice - the only word I could make out was 'ambulancia'. It registered that someone was calling to tell me there'd been an accident, and when I asked "Miguel?", the answer was "Si". I dropped both phones, grabbed my wallet, locked the doors, and raced to the street to hail a cab. Those couple minutes it took to get a cab and get to the site of the accident were the most terrifying of my life - because I fully expected to arrive to find out that Miguel had been killed.
There was a crowd of people gathered, but I tore through the crowd and shook off a woman who tried to stop me from getting to Miguel. I was stunned to see him sitting in a chair. His head was hanging, his color was grey, he looked puffy and like he'd just been bombed. But he was ALIVE! The paramedic was wrapping a huge bandage around his head and I assumed that part of his head had been blown off (thank goodness I was wrong about that!). I called his name and after the second time he raised his head and looked at me and said that he was fine (he wasn't).
Miguel touched high-voltage cables. The force of the jolt was what 'thumped' off my power a mile away. More than 16,000 volts of electricity coursed through or around his body. And didn't kill him!
Oh, he was badly hurt, no question. First, second, and third degree burns to 30% of his body. A huge gash in his head from falling down a concrete flight of stairs when the electricity exploded around him and knocked him out. The first person to attend to him said he wasn't breathing, so he slapped him in the face. Miguel came around and claimed he was fine (he wasn't). He walked down the next flight of stairs to sit in the chair and get first aid treatment to his external wounds. Then he was whisked away to the local hospital for stabilization and bandaging of his burns. Then a boat ride to Cancun where an awaiting ambulance would slowly thread the needle of Cancun rush-hour traffic to take him to the ER, where we would spend hours waiting for specialists to check him out and determine what might be damaged by the line of current on the inside of his body.
Word spread quickly on the island that Miguel had been killed. And a few hours after Miguel had gone by boat to Cancun, another man's corpse was returned to the island. Strangely enough, that man's name was also Miguel, and this solidified the rumors of Miguel's death.
Miguel's extensive bandages made him look like a zombie from the movie "Thriller". We joked that he should return to Isla and walk down the main street in his bandages, prompting speculation if he was really dead or alive. We had to find humor in something.
The road to recovery was long and painful. Miguel's faith and spirit, along with lots of TLC and medication, carried him through. Miguel should have had skin grafting, but a string of circumstances delayed it long enough that he eventually decided he wanted to see how it would heal on its own. And now, other than his scars, Miguel is as good as new. The plastic surgeon treating Miguel recommended a gel, Contractubex when we last saw him in June. This gel is for burn patients and helps smooth out the ropey scar tissue on his arm and abdomen. Miguel says the gel also makes his underlying tissues feel less stretched from the scars.
So today is the one-year anniversary of Miguel's accident. His second chance at life, because he should have been killed by that zap of electricity. He is a little bit different than he was a year ago - both inside and out. Without getting personal, there were good things that came out of this horror.
Cruising around the island, Miguel still comes across the odd person who does a double-take and says "What, you're alive? I heard you were dead!". It's only been a year, it may take a while for the rumor of life to circulate!
Postscript: In remembering this 'anniversary', I have to again give thanks to my dear friend Bennie for dropping everything and coming to the island to help out when I really needed it. I do not know how I would have gotten through this without Bennie taking charge of the house and animals while I focused on attending to Miguel's needs in the hospital in Cancun. Muchisimas Gracias, Amigo!!