G is for Generator
In 1997 and through 1998, Ghana experienced a terrible energy crisis. There was always times without electricity but during this particular period the electricity was more off than on. Sweltering heat with no fans makes for a very unpleasant sleep.
Three months after we arrived in Ghana, we installed a generator- not a very big one- just enough to run a fan or two should the electricity go off. The gentleman who installed the generator and the electrical connections appeared to be a bit on the tipsy side. This should have been a strong indication to us to send him home immediately, but he assured us he knew what he was doing. This decision on our part almost cost us our son, Sean's life.
Sean loved any animal- whether it be a dog, cat, or chicken. He decided he wanted to raise chickens and promptly started a mini farm of his own. Early one morning, twelve year old Sean woke up to check on his chickens. They had hidden in the generator hutch.
The generator was OFF since there was electricity on this particular day. Sean leaned forward to grab his chicks and almost lost his balance so he grabbed the handle of the generator. All of us slept on oblivious to his danger as 240 volts of electricity surged through his body. His pet dogs came running to his rescue only to be thrown back yelping.
The dog's yelps and further insistent barking alerted the gardener who ran to check on what the problem was. He saw Sean's plight and attempted to use a wooden broom handle to pry Sean from the live generator. He only managed to break the broom handle. He reached for a larger wooden board and this time struck Sean hard enough to loosen his grip from the machine. Sean flew away from the machine and fell into an unconscious mound. By this time the gardener managed to alert us from our sound sleep and we rushed out to find Sean laying at the foot of the kitchen stairs with blood coming from his mouth (I think he injured himself when he flew onto the concrete ground).
I thought Sean had fallen down the stairs. Rushing down to pick his lifeless body up, I pulled him to my chest and began praying over him. He jerked in my arms and sputtered and then his mouth opened saying, "Jesus will help me...Jesus will help me..." His voice was high and agitated and his eyes were unfocused. I tried to calm him but could tell he was in shock. Pulling him closer to my chest, I looked up at Joe, the Gardener and asked, "What happened?"
"He was electric shocked, Madam."
After quieting Sean down, the horror story unfolded. Sean's salvation was that only one of his hands held onto the generator. The electricity went in through his small finger and exited via his palm. There were two distinct holes burnt into his hand. I've been told that if both his hands had held onto the generator the electricity would have gone through his body and he would have died.
It is interesting to note Sean is a physicist who is working at the National Renewable Energy Labs. He is fascinated with different ways to produce energy and electricity. I often wonder if his 'shocking' encounter helped start him on the path towards his career. :)