I was meeting my friend Justin from the I Love Marketing Meetup I attend for help with my businesses. (AutoHail, the WorldHailNetwork, EdgyTools, Big Bad Websites, SEOHotShots among a few others.).

My work truck would not start, making me late. I used my battery charger that I use for my dent lights (I perform paintless dent repair (PDR) and we use battery powered LED lights) and got on my way. Justin was waiting for me at the Village Inn, a restaurant near my house in Chandler, AZ. I carried my jumper cables, an extension cord and my charger in the back seat in case I had issues after the meeting.

Despite that delay, our meeting went great. My wife, Stacy, walked into the restaurant as we were leaving. She knew of my troubles and stopped by to make sure I didn’t need a ride home. We walked out together, with Justin rolling along side us in his wheel chair. We said our goodbyes to Justin and I tried to start my truck. It wouldn’t start.

I told my wife that it was a good thing she came by and had parked right along side me. I popped both of our hoods, grabbed the jumper cables and hooked them up. I did her car first, then my truck, being very careful to place Positive to Positive and Negative to Negative. I tried to start my truck. Nothing.

Now thinking I may have blown a fuse or tripped a relay, I grabbed my owners manual to look it up. As I was finding the right page, my wife hollered “It’s smoking”. I quickly jumped out to see what was going on.

Jumper Cable Disaster Starts Here:

Jumper Cable FailureThe cables stretched between the two cars, so I had to step over them or under them to determine what exactly was smoking. As I reached to lift them and go under, a huge fireball shot out and away from me. The cables popped like a balloon and the yellow coating from the jumper cables melted, covering both of my hands. The force was so powerful, the cables actually exploded in two.

I raced into the restaurant to run water over the burns and try to get the yellow melted plastic coating off of my skin. In my shock, I hadn’t even realized that I just left my wife in a potentially dangerous situation. She was concerned about me, yet not sure what to do. Luckily Justin was still getting into his vehicle and came over and was able to talk Stacy through the safe way to get the fried cables off of the batteries.

I found that out days later. I was too busy in the restroom, peeling skin and plastic off of my hands. I went into their kitchen and asked for flour. I explained what happened and they got me flour to put on the burns. I had read on Facebook that this was a fireman trick. (Don’t believe everything you read online I guess! I was told later that it doesn’t help, but it also didn’t hurt me further).

I thought I was doing better, but by the time I got back outside to head home, overwhelming pain rushed over me. I told my wife to get me to the nearest emergency room. Luckily there was a brand new urgent care right across the street, so she quickly drove me there.

She dropped me at the front door and sent me in while she parked her car. I ran into the urgent care doubled over, clutching my hands, repeatedly saying, “I’ve burned myself badly, please help!”

Emergency Room taught me how deadly jumper cables can be:

They quickly admitted me to a private room so they could get a good look at my hands. They asked me questions about my injuries, while Stacy completed the required paperwork in the lobby. As soon as I said my accident was caused by jumper cables, they almost batted my charred hands out of the way and became very focused on the condition of my heart. They said that the electrical current could have interfered with my heart rhythm, and that would obviously be deadly. It was scary to even think about. When I told them that it was not electrical shock but the fire ball and melted plastic that was my problem, they completed their tests on my heart and turned back to my scorched hands.

They said it was imperative that my wedding ring come off. I looked at the ring, which I had replaced not two weeks prior, and my ring finger which looked like a hot dog left on the grill too long. I laughed and said, “yeah, that’s not happening!” They said I could take it off now or they could cut it off in a little while. I had just replaced my original ring, since I don’t wear any jewelry when I work around cars. I didn’t want to be buying a 3rd, so I agreed to let them try. They spread KY jelly all over my finger and two nurses squeezed my charred finger while trying to wrestle the ring off. I almost passed out.

They gave me some morphine and cleaned me all up. Then I asked the Dr. to look at my toe while I was there. She looked at me funny. I explained how the week prior, I had stubbed my big toe and ripped the nail completely up. She removed my shoe and sock and laughed as I had it all bandaged up and she was not expecting to see that. She said it looked fine. Let’s blame that toe scene on the morphine. It just wasn’t my month.

When they released me, they sent me directly over to the Maricopa Burn Unit which is known as one of the best in the country. We explained to the Triage Nurse that we had to get our little girl from school. They take the worst cases first so I realized that I may get right in or I may be there all night. We got our daughter, then headed back to the burn unit.

AutoHail Jumper Cable AccidentWhen we were almost there, I saw a Portillo’s Hot Dog Restaurant. It is one of my favorites from growing up in Chicago, for anyone unfamiliar with the chain. I thought about the nurse saying we may be there all night long waiting. With that, I easily convinced my wife to pull through the drive thru. I knew I couldn’t get my usual (Italian Beef with Hot Peppers and Extra Gravy) with my hands all bandaged up, so I went with a Cheeseburger, Extra Pickles and Onion Rings. Clearly, the morphine was working well by now and I enjoyed my meal. We all laughed at how ridiculous the scene must have looked with me trying to eat, my wife half feeding me, and my hands wrapped like a mummy.

Everyone at the burn unit was amazing! They got us checked in and back to a room rather quickly. They unwrapped my hands and said that the first place did a great job. The doctor asked me my pain level on the little chart with the emoticons (1 out of 10, 10 being worst) and I said that my hands were a 1 or a 2, my toe was a 3 and my shoulder was a 4.

Jumper Cable Fire He looked at me like WTH? I realized he knew nothing about my toe or shoulder so I explained. My shoulder was chronic pain from 15 years of removing hail damage dents from cars. I noted to him that the pain in my hands and toe went way down from the Morphine, but my shoulder didn’t feel any better at all! He found that very curious and said that we would get me seen by the right people to address that issue, but not at the Burn Unit. They finished taking care of me and taught my wife how to clean and dress my hands.

All of my businesses were put on hold. Without my hands, I obviously couldn’t repair dents. My tool business,  EdgyTools.com and my other businesses involved either working with my hands or typing. Due to the severity of my injuries on both hands, I couldn’t do either. Just shaving and showering took up half the day.

Upon my follow up visit to the burn unit, I met a guy who had a propane grill blow up in his face. His entire arms and face were covered in 3rd degree burns. He said his lips were the worst.

We shared a room separated only by a curtain, so we kept talking to each other. It really seemed to help to have each other and share what the other was experiencing.

They warned my that they would be doing a lot of work on me at this follow up and that it would hurt. They prescribed me pills for pain, and luckily I took one.  I thought they were going to cut the blisters off like they had done the first time. Nope. The male nurse took a wet washcloth and grabbed the blisters and ripped them off. It hurt worse than the original accident. My feet were kicking like a little kid. After a couple fingers were done, I asked for a break to catch my breath. He said sure and left the room. I asked my wife “Does that guy even work here?” We all laughed.

We finished the visit and I have to say that although it hurt, it sped the healing process up and was the best way to handle it. I’m quite sure the male nurse didn’t enjoy it any more than I did. What a job, and to do that day in and day out to patients is probably harder on him than on us.

My wife was amazing. She changed my dressings just as well as the trained nurses did. She took awesome care of me and changed her schedule and picked up all the slack in my businesses. She typed responses and sat in online meetings reading and typing my replies and never complained once.

Thousands of family and friends sent prayers and well wishes and checked up on me. I felt like George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life. The PDR College (Our Industry Podcast) guys even did a special podcast called Help a Brother Out and asked PDR Technicians to purchase my tools and they donated a large % of their own tool company’s revenue to help me with my lost income and medical bills. It was so moving to see how many people cared so much!

One of my visits to the Burn Unit gave me a huge paradigm shift. It took me 7 hours in the waiting room this time because of the triage system and I was fine with that. I saw babies with severe burns and other trauma. That totally blew my mind. I felt like I shouldn’t even be there at that point. I felt so bad for some of the other burn victims. It is truly amazing that these doctors and nurses do so much for people, and they do it every single day.

A Calamity turned Dent Repair Miracle:

I had been working for years on a new type of punch for EdgyTools that focused on ergonomics, a huge passion for me after my shoulder injury. I showed the rehabilitation hand specialist and she offered to test my Control Punch and write an endorsement. I saw a post on Facebook one day about a dent technician that was also injured and he said he would be unable to work because he was in a cast and could not hold a knockdown, so we sent him our prototypes to try. His responses went right to my heart. He said that we saved his business. It is amazing to me how one thing leads to another and good things can come from bad.

Since then, I am almost completely healed from my burns, my new toenail is halfway grown back and the doctors have figured out a medicine that helps with my shoulder pain. The control punch is ready and I have already sold out the entire first batch! We are happily making more and will be debuting them at the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas this May 4-6. I am so excited.

When my truck was towed in to the repair shop, they ran a bunch of tests and said that all I needed was a new battery. I was sure I had ruined the electrical system or something. I asked if I had made a mistake hooking them up or something and they said no. The manager told me that his Dad always told him to spend a lot of money on jumper cables and replace them often. I had bought the cheapest pair I could find and they were 20 years old. Although they still looked new, still in the original bag and everything, they had been through Wisconsin winters and Arizona summers. They just plain failed.

I will not be replacing them. I was told that you should not jump car to car anymore because you could damage the delicate computers or other things. You should use a jumper box or call for a professional.

Everyone take note. I don’t want ANYONE to experience what I did, or suffer needlessly. And I am saying this after I have worked around cars since I was 15 years old and have been around them all my life. I spent 16 years personally running car washes, and 16 years repairing dents. During that time,  I have jump started countless vehicles and this was just too scary. I will not jump another one car to car unless it is an emergency and the only way.

Just too much can go wrong. Even though my story ended right.