Bob Child/AP
June 15, 2010 06:35 PM

When faced with one of the toughest decisions of his life, Jonathan Metz turned to someone – albeit fictional – who always knew how to fix the most difficult problems: MacGyver.

After his arm got stuck in a furnace boiler, Metz, 31, shouted for help for 12 hours, but no help arrived. He could smell the flesh of his crushed arm beginning to rot, so he made the decision to amputate his own arm, thinking he could have it reattached later, he said during a press conference Tuesday.

“It was an instinctual response to an impossible situation,” said the West Hartford, Conn. resident.

For six hours, he contemplated what he was about to do, wondering if “maybe there’s something else. What would MacGyver do if he were here?” he quipped to reporters, referring to the TV action character, at a news conference at St. Francis Hospital, where he underwent surgery.

Home-Improvement Project

The entire ordeal began June 7 after Metz returned from work, heated up leftovers in the microwave and went to his basement to clean the 60-year-old furnace. While working on the boiler, his arm got wedged after he dropped a tool.

The more he struggled to free his arm, the more bruised and swollen it became. Eventually, he used blades from a power saw to cut his arm about halfway between his elbow and shoulder – though he only made it part of the way through before passing out.

When he regained consciousness, Metz was able to turn on the boiler release valve. “What emerged was the most disgusting orange water I’d ever seen, and yet it was the best looking water I’d ever seen,” recalls Metz, who hadn’t had any fluids for hours.

“I actually used the flip-flop I’d been wearing,” he says, “and it was covered in unspeakable things, but I managed to scoop a couple mouthfuls of this hideous, hideous water and it was enough to make me feel mentally like there was a way out of this.”

A Friend Comes to the Rescue

His colleagues at Travelers Insurance began to worry about him when he didn’t show up to the company’s Tuesday night league softball game. On Wednesday afternoon, a friend came by his house and heard his dog barking and saw Metz’s car in the driveway.

Suspicious, the friend called police who then brought firefighters equipped with a metal cutting tool that freed him. During the rescue, Metz says he was in and out of consciousness as firefighters pried the furnace open and completed the amputation.

“What put me over the top was thinking about my family, my fiancée, my dog, my friends. I have a lot of living to do,” says Metz, who underwent two surgeries and was released from the hospital Monday. He plans to get married in November.

“I’m just an average guy and if I can go through this,” he says, “people would be surprised what you’re capable of.”

Metz’s family and friends have established a Web site,, to accept donations for a prosthetic arm

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