Belinda Feek is a NZ Herald reporter

Zapped by 14,000V: 82-year-old's positive attitude helps his road to recovery

An 82-year-old Waikato man who miraculously survived being zapped by 14,000 volts after pruning a tree has a long road to recovery.

But Peter Bradbury's survival - he crawled 75m to his house before waiting up to eight days for help - is nothing short of remarkable, as he drifted in and out of consciousness on the floor of his rural 61ha Te Aroha property.

Mr Bradbury told the Herald he had been pruning his poplar trees, which were growing up under a power line, and was lowering his loppers to the ground when they caught a branch of the tree, sending it towards the 14,000 volt power line.

"I got a zap and I just free fell. I don't remember much else after that. I came to on the ground, gasping for breath. It sort of squeezed the breath out of me and then I thought to myself I better get going."

However, before he got going he realised that he had some serious injuries, including a broken pelvis and fractured spine.

Unable to walk, he crawled up the hill to his house using his chin, fingers and toes.

"I was sliding on my chin and just pulled my weight with my fingers and pushed my way with my toes, which are quite worn down. My chin was a big part in launching forward but, anyway, where there's a will there's a way, I guess."

After clawing his way inside his house, he found his bed, dragged down part of the mattress and blankets and fell asleep exhausted.

He spent the rest of his time, unsuccessfully trying to grab his cellphone which was charging on a shelf.

"I couldn't get up at all, I couldn't get off the ground. I tried all sorts of tactics, different approaches but usually I'd just lay there and have a rest and rouse and get into it again and try another circuit but nothing worked."

After what's suspected to be between six and eight days, an Auckland man - in town visiting his Matamata-based mother - popped in after a morning hunting.

"He came to the door and came in and said 'Peter what have you been doing, it looks like a bomb has hit the place', and it did," Mr Bradbury laughed.

The Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter was sent to the scene and airlifted him to Waikato Hospital. He spent the first few days in the high dependency unit before being transferred to a surgical ward where he remains.

Mr Bradbury said he was surprised it took so long for somebody to stop by as he thought his power meter was due for a reading, and a sack of wheat sat at his front gate the whole time he was incapacitated.

"I was more or less thinking about the power board fella, thinking he should be due in to read the meter. Unless I was asleep but I was listening out for the fella but my hearing is not good anyhow."

Asked how he managed to cope for so long without food or water, Mr Bradbury said he had no choice.

"What's the options? There wasn't really any other option ... Unless somebody inadvertently dropped in which they did in the end ... I wanted water, I was really dry, I wasn't too worried about food but there was neither so what's your preference - nothing or none."

As for what's next, Mr Bradbury says he'll be moved into a rehabilitation ward shortly.

"And hopefully I'll get these lungs going, and there's a set of fractured ribs and I've fractured the base of my spine and there's a few places in-between but they're coming right. Time's a healer isn't it, or so they say."

Waikato Hospital nurse Michelle Berry said Mr Bradbury had a relatively good prognosis but he was on a long road to recovery.

"When Mr Bradbury came into hospital he wasn't in a very good way, he was severely dehydrated and suffering from multiple fractured ribs and spinal fractures as well as a right pneumothorax [collapsed] lung but he's been amazing in the 10 days that he has been here although he still has a long way to go with his rehab. [It will] probably be months before he will get home but his positive attitude has helped him a lot in his recovery."

- NZ Herald

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