HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Jonathan Metz had his left arm stuck in
his furnace boiler for about 12 hours when he asked himself "what
would MacGyver do?" and concluded that amputating the limb was his
only chance for survival.
The 31-year-old West Hartford man, who was released from the
hospital Monday, met with reporters Tuesday for the first time
since getting his arm stuck in his furnace for two days and nearly
cutting it off.
Metz, who is right-handed, said when the thought of amputation
first crossed his mind he pushed it away. He considered every other
option and thought of the resourceful 1980s television character
who always found a way to use mundane objects in his surroundings
to get himself out of tough situations.
"I definitely dithered for a few hours after coming up with the
initial idea," he said. "I thought there must be some other way,
so I kind of started looking around my surroundings again. Maybe
there was something I missed. You know, what would MacGyver do if
he were here?"
Metz said he spent six hours psyching himself up for the
self-amputation. He tried to yank the arm out, he used dirty oil
from a catch basin to try to grease it and finally he looked to his
tool box, which he had within reach.
His fantasy, he said, was that he could cut off the arm, run
upstairs and put it in his freezer, call 911, then go to the
hospital and get it reattached.
Metz said he first used a hacksaw blade, then used a larger
blade, which he hoped would make the operation go smoother. He
nearly succeeded but couldn't make it through a bundle of nerves.
"I don't know how many strokes it took," he said. "But it was
quite a few. So yes, every one, I was re-evaluating in some way,
was it too late to stop? Or what was the point where there was no
Metz, who lives alone, revealed Tuesday that the ordeal began
after work on Monday night, June 7, not the day before, as doctors
previously had said.
He had been trying to clean off the heating vents on his furnace
boiler when he dropped either a brush or a Shop-Vac attachment. He
was reaching in to retrieve it when his arm became stuck between
the funnel-like fins of the boiler.
When he tried to pull it out, the fins tightened on his arm,
cutting into it. The more he would struggle, the more it would cut,
and the more his arm would swell.
"It very quickly became apparent to me that I had a major
problem," he said. "I basically spent the next 12 hours screaming
Eventually, he began noticing signs of infection and the smell
of rotting flesh, and he starting thinking he had to cut the arm
off. Doctors said the partial self-amputation prevented the spread
of the infection to the rest of his body and saved his life.
Metz started and stopped a couple times, once when the blood
flow became too much. He said he had to use a telephone cord to
fashion a second tourniquet, replacing the one he had made with his
shirt. He said he used his mouth and neck to pull the cord tight
around the arm as he cut.
When he realized he couldn't get the arm off, he leaned against
a wood pile, tightened the tourniquet again and resumed calling for
Every five minutes, he said, his microwave would beep, reminding
him that the leftovers he had been reheating for a late-night snack
were ready. He said the chirps tortured him at first, but they
later became a source of strength, telling him he had made it
through another five minutes.
He made one final thrust at the boiler and was able to open its
release valve, sending a brackish, rust-colored water onto the
floor. He scooped it into his mouth with a flip-flop he had been
"It was just enough to at least mentally make me feel like,
here's a way out of this," he said.
He said thoughts of his fiancee, family, friends and his little
beagle, Portia, also kept him going.
Friends and coworkers at The Travelers, where Metz works in
financial services, grew worried when he did not show up for work
Tuesday and missed a softball game.
When Metz did not answer the doorbell at his home Wednesday,
June 9, a friend called police, who found Metz in the basement.
Firefighters ripped apart the furnace with heavy tools,
including a spreader normally used to take the door off a car. Once
they did, the arm just gave way.
His doctors said Metz is doing well. They hope to fit him for a
prosthetic arm in the next month.
The family has set up a website - http://helpjonmetz.com - to
collect donations to help pay the costs that insurance will not
Metz said he is not feeling sorry for himself. He plans to get
married, eventually go back to work, back to playing softball, back
to his hobby of building furniture. There will be no more
procrastinating, he said.
"In the short term, it's going to be difficult," he said.
"But in the long term, boy if you need a kick in the pants to get
you to tackle, take on those dreams or whatever your aspirations
are, this was it."