MARS HILL, Maine — Thanksgiving has special meaning to most families for one reason or another, but it is particularly poignant this year for a Mars Hill couple whose tragic experience nearly ended in a death.
As Zane and Courtney Wetzel reflect on Zane’s difficult struggle back to a productive life after nearly being electrocuted, their message is simple: spend time with those who are special to you because you never know when it’s your last chance.
Zane Wetzel, 27, was an apprentice lineman for Maine Public Service Co. in Presque Isle when he suffered a flash burn to 50 percent of his body while working at the substation on Parkhurst Siding Road. His chest, back, arm and neck were burned in the Oct. 12, 2011, accident.
Wetzel had been standing on a scissor lift with several other co-workers when a charge of electricity arced and touched the corner of the lift. The electricity traveled to the ground and bounced back, burning him. Safety equipment prevented Wetzel from being electrocuted, and no one else was injured.
While Wetzel’s wife, Courtney, waited at the hospital’s emergency room, her mother, who is a nurse, pulled her behind the curtain so she could see her husband before he was flown to Boston. She wasn’t sure if that would be the final goodbye.
Wetzel was in a drug-induced coma for 47 days in the intensive care unit at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where his wife stayed by his side. He has endured 12 surgeries, including several operations to graft skin from his legs onto the burned areas of his body.
He later was transferred from Brigham and Women’s to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Cambridge, Mass., where he spent two weeks and then remained in Boston for outpatient therapy before coming home at the end of January.
For several months, Wetzel spent up to 2 ½ hours a day, five days a week, at County Physical Therapy in Presque Isle working with therapists on exercises meant to increase his range of motion and mobility, and ultimately to improve his quality of life.
After months of treatments and therapy, Wetzel no longer needs physical therapy. Courtney Wetzel has taken ownership of Pancsofar’s Bridal Shop on Main Street in Presque Isle. The couple have purchased a new home, and they are busy with renovations.
And finally, Zane Wetzel is back working for Maine Public Service.
“It it is a job inside,” he explained on Wednesday. “I like it, and it keeps me busy.”
Wetzel said that he would have taken his lineman job back, but because of the accident and burns, he cannot expose his skin to direct sunlight for extended periods.
Courtney Wetzel said earlier this week that while Thanksgiving has always been an important holiday for her family, she has really pushed people to show up for dinner.
“Zane and I have both realized that there are times when you really will never see that person again,” She explained. “During Zane’s time in the hospital, there were moments when we really thought he was dying. This Thanksgiving, his health is something to give thanks for.”