David Yarrow considers himself a healer. He has counseled people; worked to alert the public to the dangers of pesticides; organized a gardening program in Syracuse; sought water as a dowser; founded the New York chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association, and became a masseur at SYAC, the Syracuse YMCA Athletic Club, in 1978.
In the past year, he has worked on healing himself. Doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and friends are helping him. On August 6, 1992, his body came in contact with 6,000 volts of electricity. “I was lucky to survive,” he said.
The accident happened in Wisconsin, where Yarrow gave a presentation at a meeting of the Green Party, a movement based on ecological principles. After the talk, Yarrow helped the friend of a friend move a house. The house was placed on wheels and towed down a state highway. He was on the roof of the house when it struck power lines.
“I got us under, then a quarter mile down the road, we ran into another set of power lines with higher voltage: 6,000 volts. I tried to get them over the chimney, and then I realized this situation was very dangerous. I wasn’t properly protected or trained. I got out of there fast,” Yarrow said.
The last thing he recalled was feeling electricity in his arms and chest. Five days later, he woke up. He had five broken ribs, a punctured right lung and shattered vertebrae, and was in the burn unit of University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison. He spent eight months there, three months with friends in Wisconsin, and then came home. Over the past 2 ˝ months, he’s been a patient in Plaza Health Center in Syracuse.
Yarrow, whose former surname was Moore, is 43 and single. He has lived in Syracuse since childhood. He uses a wheelchair, his right hand is paralyzed, and his left index finger was taken for skin grafts on his arm.
Today is a milestone in his progress. He planned to move to an apartment at 501 S. Crouse Ave. Yarrow is confident he will walk independently before the year is out. While living on his own, he plans to continue physical therapy, and will add occupational therapy and vocational training through University Hospital.
“Another year and I’ll be mostly recovered,” he said.
At Plaza, he had physical therapy every day with Ken Renno. Sessions began with walking. Yarrow would plant both feet firmly on the floor, rise slowly from the wheelchair and grasp a walker with both hands. He took measured steps 12 feet, turned, walked another 12 feet, turned, walked another 12 feet, turned and walked 12 more feet.
He had circled an exercise platform in the middle of the physical therapy room. All the while, Renno had a slight hold on Yarrow’s waist.
After walking, Renno placed a silver metal brace with pedals on a chair. For 15 minutes, Yarrow sat in the chair, pressing the pedals with his feet. Round and round they went, helping to strengthen his hamstrings. Next, he lifted weights with his arms. Leg raises on a mat followed.
At the YMCA, Yarrow was the person giving healing massages. He knows most of the city’s leaders, among them Lee Alexander, the former mayor. “He would sit still for only 10 or 15 minutes for a massage. A very hyper guy. I got to see the upper crust of downtown Syracuse, and got to see the power that makes the city function—or not,” Yarrow said.
Today, he is learning to write and type with three fingers. “There are some real limitations I’m fighting with,” he said. “It is slow progress, but it is happening.”