The stories are horrific, yet captivating. In 2003, young climber Aron Ralston cut off his right forearm to escape from Utah's Bluejohn Canyon. Ralston had been trapped there for six days after an 800-pound (360-kilogram) boulder shifted and crushed his hand, pinning him to the canyon wall. Dehydrated and hypothermic, the emergency amputation was the only way to survive the accident [source: Benoist].
Seven years later, Jonathan Metz went into his basement to repair his furnace. While working, his arm got stuck. Metz was trapped two days when he began smelling rotting flesh. Fearing for his life, he began amputating his arm to free himself. He had most of the procedure completed when firefighters arrived and broke open the furnace. Metz's arm sort of dropped off as the furnace was demolished [source: Eaton-Robb].
Such emergency amputations, while rare, are more common than you might think. Here's what to do if you're unfortunate enough to find yourself in a similar situation [source: Howcast].
- Break the bones in the limb. This may be possible with leverage.
- Put a tourniquet on the limb several inches above where you'll be cutting so you don't bleed to death. You can use a belt, piece of cloth, rope, etc.
- Cut or saw through your skin and muscles first. The tendons will be the most difficult to sever; if you have pliers on hand, it might be easier to twist and snap them.
- Sever the arteries and nerves last; the nerves will be the most painful.
- Bandage the stump and immediately seek medical attention.