LINCOLN, NE — This alley in downtown Wilber is an unlikely place for a 16-year-old to experience a life-altering moment.
But this is where it happened around 1:00 AM on a Wednesday for Zander Baker… and it started with a game of hide and seek. His chosen hiding spot? The platform with power lines and transformers. It was working out until he was spotted.
“I go to stand up to get down because I thought I was seen and I was immediately knocked out from the shock of the wire that was right above my right shoulder,” Zander said.
And everything changed in a split second.
“It all happened so sudden," Zander said. "I didn’t realize it happened even after I was partially unconscious. I didn’t know why everybody was yelling at me.”
Fresh on the scene, his parents Brian and Kerry were telling him not to move to avoid falling off or falling back into a power line carrying more than 4,000 volts of electricity. Brian is a former electrical technician and knew the seriousness of his son’s electrocution.
“It basically is like unlimited amps going through your body," Brian said. "50 milliamps can stop your heart and we’re talking hundreds and hundreds of amps at that high voltage. So, it’s a miracle."
Emergency responders got Zander down and into a helicopter for a life flight to the CHI St. Elizabeth’s burn unit in Lincoln.
More than two weeks later, Zander is slowly on the mend. He has third degree burns in six places, can’t lift his right arm and has trouble moving his left foot. But his parents say he’s kept a positive attitude.
“It makes you really proud,” Brian said.
“He’s so tough," Kerry said. "I don’t know many people that can really endure the pain that he goes through.”
Zander knows where he finds his drive. An accomplished wrestler, his goal is to hit the mat before the end of the winter season.
“I’m really excited," Zander said. "I’m wanting to take some people down and I’m ready to wrestle.”
The frequent visits from friends and coaches and fundraisers organized by the Wilber community helps too.
“We just all know each other and we all care for each other,” Zander said.
“It’s been a really, really good feeling to know that people do care about us and Zander and his classmates and stuff really tried to help make him feel better,” Kerry said.
Now, the Zander’s focus is on the daunting recovery process and spreading a message of safety.
“Do not make dumb decisions," Zander said. "You need to really think before you make really dumb decisions like climbing power lines.”
The Bakers credit excellent care by the St. Elizabeth’s staff for some of Zander’s impressive recovery after touching the power line. He expects to soon get shark skin grafts to cover his wounds and then advance to skin grafts. Zander hopes to move to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in three or four weeks.
If you want to donate to help cover the Baker's medical expenses, there is a fund set up at First State Bank in Wilber.