As he lay in his basement with his arm hopelessly caught in a furnace and hours turning into days, Jon Metz wondered, "What would MacGyver do?"
The grim answer sank in as his cries for help went unanswered, and the West Hartford man began trying to cut off his left arm.
"As luck would have it, I had the blades I would use with some of my power tools," saids Metz, who spoke to reporters Tuesday for the first time since the 48-hour ordeal. "[It was] get as much of this limb off as you can, because otherwise you're gonna die."
The 31-year-old said the harrowing event began late on Monday, June 7, when he was cleaning the furnace just ahead of a visit from his parents. When an accessory from his wet-dry vaccuum fell inside, he instinctively reached in between two heating elements to retrieve it.
“Without really thinking about it, I took my left arm and slid it right in,” he said. “Before I knew it, I was basically trapped above my elbow between these two heating (elements).”
Moving his arm and splashing water, did not help. Things were actually getting worse as he struggled.
“It soon became apparent to me that I had a major problem,” he said. "The next five or 10 minutes was sheer panic. What am I gonna do? How am I gonna get my arm out? I struggled. It just made it worse."
After 18 hours of screaming for help, all the time, the microwave beeping to remind him of the leftovers he's placed in there, and realizing that no one was coming, he wondered what the the famously resourceful 1980s television hero would have done.
He crafted a tourniquet, just like he'd seen done in the movies. “Hollywood did not let me down. I guess,” he said.
"It took me about six hours to psyche myself up to the point where I thought I was capable of actually doing what I thought needed to be done," Metz said. "Whether it's cutting your arm off or finding some other way, I think all people would be surprised what they're capable of in those situations."
As thoughts of his parents and fiancee flashed through his mind, he put a post operative plan in place.
“The cut was not about saving my life, per se,” Metz said. “The idea was, sever the arm, grab it out of the fire box, wash it off, put it in the freezer, call 911 and have my arm reattached.”
But he ran into difficulties when he struck nerves. It was at that point that the tourniquet stopped working, he said.
“It was really smooth sailing until I hit this spot,” he said. “I was still trapped any my arm was still stuck in this boiler.”
He quenched his thirst by using his free hand to turn a release valve on the boiler.
“It was the most disgusting water I’d ever scene and the best water I’d ever seen,” he said. “I was able to scoop a couple of mouthfuls of this disgusting water.”
Meanwhile, outside the home, Metz's friends and coworkers had figured out that something was very wrong.
“Through their social exchange, they began to put these pieces together,” Metz said. One pal went to the house, saw the car in the driveway and that the dog was alive.
“They pretty quickly decided this was a serious situation and they call 911,” he said. “As this was happening, I was living in what I can best explain as a fantasy, dream world. Not quite alive, not quite dead.”
Although he didn't completely sever the arm, it was amputated after he was rescued. He said he made peace with that before he began his courageous self-rescue attempt, and that his spirits are strong.
“Being glum is not going to bring my arm back," he said. "It’s not going to make [the problem] go away.”
What will help is a new prosthetic arm. An artificial limb company has visited Metz and his doctors hope they can fit him with one in the next week. He will be under continued care until he is fitted with a prosthesis and goes through rehabilitation. But Metz needs help to pay for the prosthesis, which will cost more than $100,000 and only partially covered by his insurance.
"Supported by kind, generous people like you, Jon can look forward to returning to work, to enjoying hobbies like furniture-making, to playing softball, to marrying his fiancée this November—to living his life," his Web site says.
To help, visit Help Jon Metz.com.