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Q: SELF SURGERY ON ARMS ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   10 Comments )
Category: Health > Medicine
Asked by: yesmam-ga
List Price: $2.00
Posted: 09 May 2003 18:57 PDT
Expires: 08 Jun 2003 18:57 PDT
Question ID: 201832
In light of the fascinating story from Colorado about the man that was
hiking in the wilderness and had performed surgery to remove his arm,
are there other cases of this extaordinary type of survival?
Also, wouldn't a person go in to shock from doing such a painful thing
to themselves?
Whatever the response, isn't it one of the most amazing things that
you've ever heard about?

Thanks, YesMam
Answered By: sublime1-ga on 09 May 2003 22:38 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

It certainly *is* amazing. I'll start off with a personal story,
which could have turned out with similar results, but fortunately
did not.

I was working for a friend who owned a print shop, and running
an older-model Heidelberg 'windmill' press. Here's a picture,
courtesy of Indian Hill Press:

At the top, toward the back of the press, you can just make
out the ink rollers, where you add ink with a spatula, by
dipping it into a can of ink with a consistency a little
less thick than tar. The ink is then applied to the rollers
with the spatula. Ideally, the press is turned off during
this procedure, but experienced pressmen, like my friend,
do it with the press (and rollers) running. I was not
greatly experienced, but, having watched him do it, I
tried it his way.

What I didn't realize was that the ink on the rollers was
considerably drier, and thus, more tacky, than the ink in
the can. When I applied the ink, with the blade parallel
to the rollers, the tacky ink on the rollers grabbed the 
spatula and pulled it through - with my hand still grasping
it!!! The rollers pulled me in up to my wrist before something
in me responded more quickly than I could think. I instantly
let go of the spatula, flattened my hand, and pulled for all
I was worth - managing to pull my hand back out of the rollers.

Only later did I closely examine the construction of the 
rollers. They are in continuous contact with each other,
made of a steel rod in the center and surrounded by a 
layer of solid rubber. They are not spring-loaded. The
actual distance between the steel rods at the center of
the rollers was little more than about an inch, yet, 
somehow, I managed to pull my hand back through them.

My hand, of course, was soon swollen like a balloon.
My bones were badly bruised, but not broken. I struggled
with internal scar tissue for years before things like
typing no longer bothered me. I also play guitar
and keyboard by ear, so you can imagine my gratitude.
I had no insurance at the time, so I never even saw
a doctor. It was about a month before I was recovered
enough to use my hand.

As for other self-surgeries on arms:

Here's a story from BBC News dated October 23, 2002:
"Doug Goodale cut off his own arm at the elbow in
 order to survive an accident at sea."

There's also a psychological disorder which falls into
the dysmorphic category, containing such diagnoses as
anorexia nervosa, where a thin person perceives themselves
as too fat. 

Apotemnophilia, called by one psychaitrist 'Amputee
Identity Disorder', compels an individual to amputate
certain limbs. This page, from The Portland Mercury,
details individuals who have felt compelled to cut off
their arms or legs:

Please do not rate this answer until you are satisfied that
the answer cannot be improved upon by means of a dialog
established through the "Request for Clarification" process.


Searches done, via Google:

"cut off his own arm" -mountaineer -climber -hiker
yesmam-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $5.00

From: googlenut-ga on 09 May 2003 19:06 PDT
"isn't it one of the most amazing things that
you've ever heard about?"

From: tisme-ga on 09 May 2003 19:10 PDT
Wow, had not really read this story, but upon searching for: colorado
remove arm on I am amazed! I am fairly
confident that I would have died under similar circumstances.

From: pinkfreud-ga on 09 May 2003 19:28 PDT
Here's the story of a doctor who performed his own appendectomy:

The operation - a common appendectomy, performed many times throughout
history before this day in 1921, becomes an extraordinary event in the
little town of Kane. Doctor Evan O'Neill Kane, whose father was the
founder of the town, wanted to prove something to the medical world.
It was his belief that ether was being used far too often when less
dangerous local anesthetics could be used. So he set out to perform an
appendectomy using only a local anesthetic. This would not be amazing
in itself until the patient is known. The patient was Dr. Kane, the
60-year-old Chief Surgeon of Kane Summit Hospital. He removed his own

To accomplish this he was propped up on the operating room table with
a mirror over his abdomen. Three other doctors looked on, in case of
trouble, as he began to make the necessary incision for the removal of
the vermiform appendix. In those days this procedure called for a much
larger incision than today's Band-Aid surgery. With his skilled hands
he located the inflamed tissue and carefully removed it from his
intestine. Assistants then sutured the wound. This was neither Dr.
Kane's first self-surgery, nor his last. In 1919 he amputated one of
his own fingers. Then in 1932, at age 70, he performed an operation on
himself to correct an inguinal hernia that had bothered him since he
was first injured in 1926 while riding horseback. This was the most
dangerous of the three operations that he did because of the close
proximity to the femoral artery. The suture needle must penetrate
within one-eighth of an inch of this important artery.

With nerves of steel he performed flawlessly in the one hour and
fifty-five minute operation. Dr. H. M. Cleveland and a team of nurses
were there to assist, but only helped during the most trying moments.
Dr. Kane was calm and relaxed during the whole operation. He even
joked with the nurses as he worked, asking them if they were
comfortable. About an hour into the operation the moment of truth
arrived. He said "The risk is here and I must face it," in a relaxed
tone as he prepared to thread the Kangaroo suture under his abdominal
muscle and to within millimeters of the important vessels. Everyone
held their breath in silence until the crisis had passed. Dr.
Cleveland declared the operation a success and Dr. Kane recovered
quickly enough to assist in the operating room 36 hours later. Dr.
Evan O'Neill Kane was an important part of Kane's local history.
From: tutuzdad-ga on 09 May 2003 20:25 PDT
In October 1999 Dr Jerri Neilsen was trapped at the South Pole when
she discovered she had breast cancer. She performed needle biopsies on
her own breast, conducted her own intravenous chemotherapy treatments
and was preparing to perform self-surgery on her affected breast in
the event that she could not be rescued. Weather eventually permitted
her rescue but only after weeks of enduring self-inflicted invasive
treatments which ultimatley saved her life.

From: knowledge_seeker-ga on 10 May 2003 07:09 PDT
Tutuzdad beat me to it. 

Jerri Neilsen's story is extraordinary!  If you get a chance, read her
book, "Icebound."  Incredible.

From: yesmam-ga on 10 May 2003 07:13 PDT
Google is incredible, but Google Answers is like a message board for
the most interesting people in the world.
I don't think that I would have the guts to do it, but would like to
think that I do, but hope never to be placed in a situation to try it

From: yesmam-ga on 10 May 2003 07:16 PDT
P.S. My own father is a surgeon. Fifty years ago, he tried to correct
an ingrown toenail by himself.
I think that he passed out, but will pursue this interesting chapter
of family history!

From: journalist-ga on 10 May 2003 07:16 PDT
There is also the story of Donald Wyman who amputated his leg with his
pocketknife after a tree pinned his leg (1993).  I recall that People
Magazine did a feature story on him at the time. See for a blurb
and see for the AP
story reprinted in a message forum.
From: jeanluis-ga on 10 May 2003 18:22 PDT
Here is another interesting story of survival, it does not involve
amputation but it is pretty amazing none the less:
"Man rescued after months at sea"
This guy caught his own food (birds, turtles, etc...) and used salt
from the sea water to cure the food!
From: read2live-ga on 30 Jun 2003 13:06 PDT
Late breaking news, from the UK Mirror newspaper, June 30, 2003:
Miner cuts own arm off with craft knife.

Colin Jones cut his arm off below the elbow after his tractor
overturned two miles underground. The fuel was leaking, and he feared
that a rescue party would not reach him before the fuel caught fire. 

[Now there's a memorable URL!]

I came across the story moments ago in the UK Independent, in hard
copy, with the added detail that heasked one of his co-workers to do
the deed but his workmate couldn't bring himself to do it, so Jones
had to do the job himself.  After being rescued, surgeons tried to
re-attach the arm, but it was too badly crushed.  I tried raising this
story online, but the page just hung there.

CNN also carries this story, slightly earlier than the UK reports
because the man's name and condition had not yet been released. 

Each of the reports recalls the Aron Ralston story earlier this year.

And yes, amazing stories!  r2l

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