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The Fire Within – Cliff Meidl’s Story

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The Fire Within – Cliff Meidl’s Story

Cliff was just a young man in 1986 working at that construction site – 20 years old. He was operating a jackhammer and within moments "the lights went out” for him. He made contact with three live electrical cables and suffered a cardiac arrest due to the severe electrical shock. In addition, Cliff sustained series electrical burns and exit wounds to over 15 per cent of his body with major damage to both knees. Nearly a third of each knee compartment was disintegrated.

Luckily, the first responders arrived quickly and saved his life. But his battles weren’t over, they were just getting started.

In the most recent episode of The Safety Moment Podcast, Cliff sat down with Utility Safety Partners President Mike Sullivan to share is story.

"I didn't know what was going on. I didn't know if I was dead or alive, but my mother had to bear the brunt. And a lot of times we don't really realize how that impacts not only the family, but how it impacts us for many, many years thereafter.”

When he was finally sent home from the hospital he was a scar of what he used to be. 

"I didn't want people to see what I physically looked like at the time. I had a lot of scars all over me.”

His knee bone was gone and there was talk of amputation. But Cliff family found UCLA Medical Center Plastic Surgeon Dr Malcolm Lesavoy who devised an innovative procedure and was able to save Cliff’s legs. Doctors then gave Cliff a series of physical therapy exercises and told him to do them three times a week. He did them… three times a day. 

And He Got Stronger

A decade later, thanks to his commitment and dedication to battle through adversity Cliff marched into the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Atlanta as a member of the US Olympic Kayaking Team. Four years later he was the Games in Sydney, this time as the one selected by his peers to carry the United States flag during the Opening Ceremonies.

"I was so nervous. I still walk like Bambi because I'm still missing a third of the knee compartment in both legs. And here I am standing there, my heart's beating out of (my) chest. And I remember holding the American flag, and I remember taking this deep breath and I looked over my shoulder and the only thing I could see was the sea of red, white, and blue was the entire United States delegation following me into the opening ceremony. And that was the most proud (sic) moment in my life.”

Today a big part of Cliff’s life is talking about his story and promoting safety awareness.

"I kind of had to look in the mirror and ask myself, what is of importance in life? My goal is that if we can inspire one person to go home, come to work in a safe manner and go back home to their family, we have done our job and I've been trying to promote this for many years and try to save lives and talk about my story and hopefully that resonates with people out on the workforce.”


On the go? Listen to the podcast episode 


Doug Downs – Stories and Strategies Podcast Productions


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