Kurt Kaser at the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals' Lincoln, Nebraska campus. (Courtesy of Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals)
PENDER, Neb. - A Nebraska farmer said he had to make the gruesome choice to saw off his own leg with a 3-inch pocket knife after it became trapped in a grain hopper.
Kaser was moving corn from one bin to another when he said he accidentally stepped into a small hole in a grain hopper (a device designed to deposit grain in a bin), which seized his leg and began pulling him into the machine.
The farm where Kaser was working spans 1,500 acres, and he had been working alone that day, making it futile to call for help. When Kaser couldn't find his cell phone, he almost lost hope, “I was afraid it was going to suck me in more. I about gave up and let it do what it was going to do,” he told the Omaha World-Herald.
Kaser watched the machine mangle his leg, first removing his foot from his body and continuing to tear away flesh from further up the limb. Then he noticed a spot on his leg about eight inches below his knee where the tissue was thinnest. Figuring this was his best chance for escape, he pulled out his 3-inch pocket knife and sawed through the remaining tissue and freed himself.
"When I was cutting it, the nerve endings, I could feel, like, the ping every time I sawed around that pipe, and all at once it went and it let me go and I got the heck out of there," he told KETV.
With the bone sticking out of his ankle, Kaser crawled about 150 feet to get to a phone, where he was able to call for help. Kaser said he never lost consciousness, and told the Omaha-World Herald, “It’s hard to describe. You want to survive and you do what you need to do to survive, I guess.”
Kaser was flown to a hospital following the incident and then spent a few weeks at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals' Lincoln, Nebraska campus. He was released from rehab over the weekend but will need to wait until his leg is fully healed to be fitted for a prosthetic.
Despite the nature of the accident, Kaser told local media that he remains optimistic because he will be able to walk again one day.
“Some (other patients) won’t ever get out of their wheelchairs. What they’ve got is what they are. I know I will be walking again fairly normally. Other people can’t, won’t ever.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.