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Trapped man attempts to sever his own arm to survive

By Julie Cannold , CNN
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Trapped man attempts to saw off own arm
  • NEW: Metz alert and talking with doctors after surgery
  • Connecticut man was trapped by furnace
  • He realized only hope of survival was to cut off arm
  • Doctors call efforts "brave" and "amazing"

New York (CNN) -- Trapped in the basement by a broken furnace for three days, and the only hope for survival is to cut off your own arm.

It's certainly a horrifying tale, but it was reality for Jonathan Metz, 31, of West Hartford, Connecticut.

Metz had been trapped in his basement for two days when he smelled rotting flesh and realized his only hope to stay alive was to amputate his left arm, which was trapped by a furnace. So he made a tourniquet just below his shoulder and sawed through 90 percent of his arm before he passed out.

Luckily, neighbors realized they had not seen Metz for a few days and called police, who were able to rescue him with the aid of firefighters.

According to West Hartford Fire Chief Matt Stuart, rescuers ripped apart the furnace using heavy tools and completed the amputation. The arm could not be reattached because of infection.

In a news conference Thursday, trauma doctors from Hartford's St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center who tended to Metz recounted what happened.

"His arm was dying, and once that happens, you release toxins, and he did mention the smell, so he knew something wasn't right," explained Dr. Scott Ellner.

The doctors said there a nerve probably got in the way of Metz finishing the amputation. He will have to undergo a few more surgeries to make the arm viable for a prosthetic.

As of Friday afternoon, Metz was alert and talking to doctors after undergoing muscle flap surgery in the morning, said Tina Varona, the hospital's media relations manager.

Varona said surgeons were able to clean and cover the bone with muscle tissue during the 2 1/2 hour operation. Surgeons say the tissue was "healthy and viable," and they were able to modify and close the wound.

Dr. David Shapiro was inspired by Metz's actions, saying, "The way that he did it was frightening, admirable, horrifying, brave and just amazing to us."

Metz was trying to repair the furnace when he got trapped. Drinking water leaking from the furnace helped keep him alive.

CNN's Cassie Spodak contributed to this report.