Last week Jonathan Metz became trapped in his basement in Connecticut while trying to mend his boiler. Yesterday he was recovering in a Connecticut hospital, the newest member of an ultra-exclusive fraternity of Americans who have cut off their own limbs to save their lives.
Mr Metz, 31, had inserted his left arm into the boiler only to feel a pair of fan blades grip him above the elbow. Two days later he knew a bad situation was turning fatal when he started smelling rotting flesh. He reached for a hand saw and a length of cable, fashioned a tourniquet below his left shoulder and started to cut.
The muscle, tendons and blood vessels succumbed to the saw blade easily enough, but the bone proved more resistant. Mr Metz passed out with his self-amputation 90 per cent complete.
Paramedics finished the job after being summoned by friends of Mr Metz, who became concerned after he failed to attend a softball game. Neighbours packed the arm in ice. Surgeons at the St Francis Hospital, in Hartford, were unable to reattach it but performed muscle flap surgery to prepare the stump for a prosthetic arm. They expressed their awe at his composure.
“His arm was dying and once that happens you release toxins,” Scott Elner said at the weekend. “He did mention the smell, so he knew something wasn’t right. It was the right thing to do.” David Shapiro added: “The way he did it was frightening, admirable, horrifying, brave and just amazing.”
It also puts him in the company of a tiny clique of self-amputees who found the courage to do the unthinkable after realising that the alternative was a slow, agonising and lonely death.
In 2003 Aron Ralston, a well-known mountaineer and photographer from Colorado, was hiking alone in southeastern Utah when a boulder shifted, trapping his right forearm in a slot canyon little wider than his own body.
For five days Mr Ralston tried and failed to move the boulder. As he ran out of water and started drinking his own urine he videotaped farewells to his family and prepared to die. Having carved his name, birth date and presumed date of death in the sandstone wall of the canyon with a cheap penknife, he realised that the knife might save him.
In a story that he has retold hundreds of times since, sometimes to corporate audiences for up to $37,000 (£25,500) a speech, Mr Ralston levered himself against the boulder to break both bones in his arm, cut through the soft tissue with the knife, abseiled 20m (65ft) to the bottom of the canyon and walked 13km (8 miles) to the nearest road.
Less celebrated but no less remarkable is the story of Sampson Parker, from South Carolina, whose right hand became stuck between two heavy rollers in a rusty corn-picking machine in 2007. He was able to jam a stick between the rollers to halt their action but could not switch off the machine, which eventually caught fire.
Mr Parker hacked through his arm above the wrist with a pocket knife then drove, one-handed and badly burned, to the road in front of his house, where a passing firefighter administered first aid. Afterwards he made peace with the machine that nearly killed him. As he told a reporter at the scene of the accident: “Came down here, had a prayer with God and the corn picker and me. Made it easier, made peace with it.”
This aint shit... I had to bite off my own dick...dont ask.