Rescuers arrive to free trapped man as he finishes amputating his own arm

Jonathan Metz

Life or death decision: Jonathan Metz sawed off his arm after it became trapped in a furnace

An American man is recovering after cutting his own arm off after it became stuck in a broken furnace in his basement.

Jonathan Metz started cutting three days after becoming stuck while he tried to fix the unit, as he began to smell his flesh rotting.

The 31-year-old had almost cut through the limb when rescuers arrived, his friends having raised the alarm when he failed to arrive at work and a softball game.

Police forced their way into his Hartford, Connecticut, apartment and found him in agony, his severed arm having succumbed to gangrene.

The amputation was completed in hospital.

'There was a little bit of fat that remained and he was in and out of consciousness,' said Dr Scott Ellner, Metz's surgeon at Hartford's Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center.

'It sounds like maybe there was a nerve there that prevented him from completing the amputation.'

Metz, who lives alone, had been trying to replace the boiler fins on his furnace on Sunday when his arm became trapped.

Friend Luca DiGregorio said he and other friends grew worried when Metz failed to attend work or social engagements.

Metz also did not answer the doorbell when DiGregorio visited his home on Wednesday, where he said he saw Metz's dog 'yipping at the back door'.

DiGregorio called police, who found Metz in the basement.

metz house

Trapped: Metz, 31, performed the amputation three days after it became stuck in the broken unit at his home in Hartford, Connecticut

'I was a little worried, especially when the first cop showed up,' DiGregorio said. 'Then more showed up, and then the ambulance showed up, so it got a little nerve-racking.'

Firefighters ripped apart the furnace with heavy tools, including a spreader normally used to take the door off a car.

Once they did so, the arm 'just gave away, because his arm was already infected and the tissue was non-viable', fire chiefs said.

Officials didn't know what type of tools Metz used to attempt the amputation, saying he was mumbling during the rescue operation.

They said Metz drank some of the water that had leaked from the furnace to help him stay alive.

Dr David Shapiro, a trauma specialist who also operated on Metz, said he could not have lived much longer.

'I've never experienced somebody who had the ability to go through something like this,' Dr Ellner said.

'He provides a lot of inspiration for myself, not just as a physician but as a human being.'

Dr Shapiro said that although there was still some concern about infection, Metz was expected to survive.

He will have to undergo more surgery to prepare the arm for a prosthetic.

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