RIO RANCHO, N.M. — There’s no doubt that Larry Tafoya saved his wife Carly’s life when she was electrocuted last month, but he says he’s not a hero.
It was a typical COVID-19 day: A couple staying at home, working on a project or two — until Carly Tafoya got the shock of her life.
“My wife was working with some wood — fractal wood-burning machine — it’s called the Lichtenberg machine,” Larry Tafoya said. “We had made one (design); she had used it throughout the week, making some nice designs on some wood.
“This particular day, in the afternoon, I was about 3 feet from her, and I was sanding some legs to the project we were doing,” Tafoya recalled. “The air compressor was on, the sander was on and I was facing a different direction.
“My daughter (Jordan) came in from inside the house, and I saw her standing there, and all of a sudden she started screaming,” he continued. “I wondered, why is she screaming? And she was looking at Carly, and so I turned to look at Carly — and I could just hear this awful sound of electricity.
“I could tell she was getting electrocuted — by the time I could move around to get to her, she was already on the ground,” he said.
He found the cables Carly was still holding, ripped them away from her and told Jordan to call 911.
“My focus was on Carly and I was assessing her: I could see a hole in her shirt, I could see her hands burned — she didn’t have a pulse. She was unconscious — she was down; she was out,” he recalled. “I could see stuff coming out of her mouth and her eyes rolled back. It was very, very traumatic.”
Tafoya pauses, emotional.
“The next thing, what I did — it just came to mind — it was an out-of-body experience. I just said, ‘I’ve got to do chest compressions.’ I was still screaming at her to wake up — and all of a sudden she turned (and said), ‘What happened?'”
He hadn’t expected his wife to come to.
Tafoya wasn’t sure how long it took for a rescue crew to arrive: “Time gets distorted,” he said.
“They came and wheeled her up there; she was already conscious and talking — it was a true miracle.”
Carly said she remembered “Jordan walking in. I lifted up my head and I smiled at her. From that point, she said that I said, ‘Ouch,’ and I looked down at my hands, and she said I just started shaking. I remember my body shaking and I fell — and I was, like, dreaming.
“There was this bright place and I was standing there — I don’t know who I was talking to, but I was laughing … but I can hear Larry calling my name from, like, a distance. And all of a sudden, it sounded like he was right next to me,” she recalled. “He said my name one last time, and that’s when I opened my eyes.
“This machine puts out 1,000 to 2,000 volts,” Carly added. (A website said the machine’s output is 12,000 volts. The couple built the machine themselves.)
Tafoya, a law enforcement veteran and on the security staff at Rio Rancho High School before becoming a probation officer at Sandia Pueblo, said he’d done CPR many times, but until May 18, never on a loved one.
“(It was) definitely totally different,” he said. “Thank God for the outcome.”
The couple agreed it took more than Tafoya’s CPR to keep Carly, his wife of four years — they’ve been together 10 years — alive.
“I truly give all the glory to God — it was his doing,” he said.
Carly’s hands are still scabbed from the burns and ensuing skin grafts she received; she has no more pain.
“The first couple nights after they did the surgery, it was a little painful,” she said, appreciative of the work performed on her during her three nights at University of New Mexico Hospital. “They were amazing. … Every single person that walked into my room, even the custodial staff, they were so friendly and helpful.”
“The doctor said (the shock) definitely went through her heart,” Tafoya said. “Every test that she’s gotten has come back with great results.”
Carly survived, but the Lichtenberg machine didn’t: “It’s already down at the dump,” Tafoya said. “We’ll probably just finish up the projects we have with a weed-burner, and we have a small propane torch.”
“We will not ever use that again,” Carly, who works in the human resources department for Rio Rancho Public Schools, added.