The Stories Speak for Themselves


Reference RF Exposure

Printed with permission from the author, Gary H (April 5, 2006).   


In 1994 a co-worker and I were correcting some problems on a newly constructed 900' tower in Memphis, Tennessee. Our work was at 700' in the midst of a 5 bay FM (100kw). The conduit ran along the outside face of the tower by the FM. I worked below the bay and my co-worker (a lighting rep.) was in the middle of the bay. We were replacing damaged wiring in the conduit. The engineer had arrived earlier and took the station off the air and transferred over to the old tower some miles away. His only request was to call master control when we were done so they could transfer back. 


After about 5 hours of work, I descended the tower to make sure our problem was corrected on the ground while he remained at his position on the tower. After seeing our fault was cleared, I radioed to him to come on down. There was no response. I thought we had a radio malfunction so I stepped outside and yelled. Fortunately, he heard me and began his decent. It wasn't until after he cleared the FM that we finally regained radio contact. I glanced over at the FM transmitter and seen we were at full 100% power. I picked up the phone, dialed master control, and the kid whom answered told me that he powered up the antenna "hours ago" when he came on shift. It seems the engineer had left the transmitter in remote instead of local control. Who's at fault and who failed is not the reason for this post. What happened afterwards is.


When he was on the ground, I told him what happened. He said he felt fine. I asked if he felt like he was getting warm up there. He replied that it was 91 degrees today and I agreed as if I had asked a stupid question. I also noticed that he had killed 1 Gatorade and 1 Dr. Pepper upon reaching the ground. As we drove back to the hotel, he had managed to drink everything we had in the cooler. He consumed about 6 bottled drinks in all. After cleaning up at the hotel we went to dinner where I personally watched him drink at least 2 pitchers of ice tea. He had even made the comment that he had never been so thirsty.


We had doubled up in the hotel and were asleep when I was awakened to him moaning at about 11:30pm. I asked if he was ok and he replied that he had a really bad headache. I turned on the light between the two beds and he screamed bloody murder. I thought it was a migraine. I got to my BC powders, poured some water and walked over to him. He took the BC powders and downed the water. I went to get him more water when he tried to stand up. He looked like he had splints tied to each leg as he walked toward the bathroom. He fell straight over onto the TV and then bounced onto the floor. He couldn't get up. I helped him to the bathroom (where he was trying to go)….held him up so he could relieve himself (that much fluid…you do the math). When he was done I noticed a substantial amount of blood in the toilet. I told him we were going to the hospital and he didn't argue. I helped get him dressed, carried him to the truck and away we went. 


Upon arrival to the hospital, I informed the doctors that he may have RF Poisoning. To my amazement, neither doctor knew what that was or how to treat it. Finally one doctor decided to call his old University which was Duke. A doctor there asked him to pull blood and due an enzyme count. His enzyme count came back 14 times greater than normal. As the doctors explained it to me, it is if you were placed in an oven and your muscles were being cooked. This releases a huge amount of enzymes into your blood stream. The other confusing fact to the doctors was that his cholesterol count was so low. So low that one of the attending doctors had his checked to make sure the lab equipment had not malfunctioned. They even asked my co-worker about his eating habits. Waffle-house, McDonalds and a Meat and Three was his response. 


Baffled, these doctors finally decided that the RF had burned up most of the fatty corpuscles in his blood steam. This made sense to us as fat is mainly oil and isolated. The other factor was the eyes are isolated as well and could be the cause of the migraine. The testicals are also isolated which could have explained blood in his urine. For the next few hours I watched two nurses latterly squeeze his IV's into his blood stream…there was not a drip method. They would finish one IV and then squeeze another. One in each arm. After a couple of days in the hospital he was discharged. It took him a couple of weeks to walk normal again and has never had a headache since then. Urination had return to normal. So, if the above can help anyone determine if you have been exposed…then I hope the telling of this story helps. Also, never trust the engineer and always make sure that if powered down you are in local control and not remote.