It was a warm summer day in 2015, and Gerry Kinney went up in the bucket to do some repair work on electrical lines in Helm, Ill.
“I couldn’t wait for that day to be over, because the next day my wife and I were going on vacation,” Gerry said.
Gerry, a foreman for Wayne-White Counties Electric Cooperative, said it should have been an easy job on July 16, 2015.
“I went up in the bucket and was unaware that I was higher and closer than I should have been,” he said. “I didn’t know that I came in contact with the line – 7200 volts. But when I tried to control the bucket with my right hand, I couldn’t make my right hand do anything. So I tried my left hand, and it wouldn’t work, either. I was getting really frustrated, and that is when I looked down and saw my skin between my sleeve and my leather glove. At that instant I felt the most intense pain I’d ever felt.”
Immediately, Air Evac Lifeteam was called. The Mount Vernon, Ill., crew of flight paramedic Dan Stowers, flight nurse Chad Nordike and pilot Corey Greene was preparing to board the helicopter for a funeral flyover when they got the call.
“Gerry was in such a rural area that we beat the ambulance,” Dan said. “When we got to Gerry, the first thing he said was, ‘Denice is going to be mad at me…we are supposed to go on vacation tomorrow.’”
Denice Kinney also works at Wayne-White Counties Electric Coop, and was one of the people who took the call that a lineman was injured.
Denice added, “Someone told me Air Evac had been called and was on the scene. I knew then that Gerry would be ok, because Air Evac provides such quick response.”
When Air Evac arrived, Dan said both of Gerry’s hands were contracted and he had second and third degree burns. The crew, knowing every minute mattered, loaded him onto the helicopter and flew Gerry to Mercy Hospital St. Louis.
When the first surgeon came out to speak with Denice and the rest of Gerry’s family, he was positive.
“The surgeon said, ‘We very seldom see patients with Gerry’s injuries because they never make it here in time,’” Denice recalled. “From the bottom of my heart, I thank everyone at Air Evac Lifeteam for giving us our lives back.”
Gerry endured eight surgeries and spent five weeks at Mercy Hospital St. Louis, and another two weeks at Mercy’s rehab facility. Both arms were amputated below the elbow, and Gerry received new arms from Advanced Arm Dynamics in Overland Park, Kan. Today he is involved in a program, testing wrist flexion for Motion Control through the Department of Defense.