A mill worker who lost his arm in a saw machine accident said he did not immediately lose his cool.
Jesse Gonzalez said he felt the sting as the blade severed his arm at his right elbow. He said he fell into a "little bit" of shock and a "little bit" of disbelief.
It wasn't until he was loaded onto a medical helicopter that the severity of the situation really began to sink in.
"I was prepared to accept the fact that I might have lost it," he said of his right arm.
Gonzalez said he immediately left the area where the accident occurred during his Oct. 25 shift at Mary's River Lumber Co. in Philomath.
"I didn't stop to look for my arm," he said.
Instead, he sought help. Gonzalez said his coworkers quickly came to his aid and one in particular, Tony Killgore, worked fast to secure his arm with a tourniquet.
Firefighters then responded and got him, along with his severed arm, onto the REACH Air Medical Services helicopter within minutes to take him to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland.
Up until that point, Gonzalez said he was pretty aware of what was happening. He knew he had lost his arm and he knew he was going to the hospital. He said he was also upset at himself over the accident.
Then, he believes the loss of blood began to take hold. He was losing consciousness as he arrived at the hospital.
He was rushed in for an emergency 3 1/2-hour surgery - one that his doctors said was filled with the potential for plenty of problems.
His surgeon, Dr. Steven Madey, explained the process to reattach the arm using as simple of terms as possible. He said first the "plumbing" had to be reconnected, followed by the skeleton, then the nerves, then the muscles before finally closing everything up.
During a news conference Tuesday, Madey assured the room it was far from that simple.
"Anything can go wrong," he said.
The doctor said it was a fairly clean cut in this case, which made it a more straight-forward procedure than it could have been. A few pieces of Gonzalez's elbow are still missing and he'll have to go in for another procedure soon to clean things up.
It's been more than a week and Gonzalez still can't feel anything in his arm. That won't happen anytime soon, either.
Madey said the nerves have to regenerate and go down into the muscle. It's a process that could take six months to a year.
He said if Gonzalez was an 8-year-old child and this happened, he'd be confident the patient would grow up to have a perfectly normal arm.
Because he's an adult, the process can be trickier. Still, Madey said Gonzalez will be able to move his fingers at some point and the overall prognosis seems positive.
"He's probably going to have a pretty good elbow, in terms of his ability to use it," Madey said.
Gonzalez was asked Tuesday about returning to work at the sawmill. It's far too soon for the man to know what's in store for the future, but he said he's sure he'll go back to work in some capacity at some point.
"I don't think I'll be a machine operator again," he said.
His surgeon said an injury like this can obviously be very traumatic for the person who suffers it. Madey said he's been so impressed by the way Gonzalez has handled it every step of the way.
"I can tell you he's a very tough individual," Madey said.
There is one person in his life who brought Gonzalez to tears after the accident. He has two daughters and lives with one of them at his home in Albany.
Gonzalez said his main concern as he was being flown to the hospital was what his 15-year-old girl would think. He didn't want her to be too upset or distraught.
He described seeing her for the first time after his surgery as being an important step in the healing process.
"We cried a little and I apologized for scaring her," he said. "She is my life. She is my daughter."
Copyright 2012 KPTV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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