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Hacking off one's own leg

Discussion in 'Research' started by The Din, Aug 9, 2012.

  1. The Din

    The Din Troubadour

    My MC has found himself on the wrong side of a torturer's hammer and loses a few toes as a result. Escapes at a hobble and all seems fine and dandy, until infection sets in. So, alone in the woods he must cut off his own foot.

    1:Is this feasible? (I know, it was in SAW so it must be possible...) MC's got a high pain threshold, fire, and maybe even a bread knife if I'm feeling benevolent.

    2:What are the actual steps for a backyard amputation?

    3:Is there any way he could walk on crutches immediately afterwards?
  2. Lawfire

    Lawfire Sage

    The movie "127 Hours" was based on a true story. It tells the story of a rock climber that had to self amputate. He used a Leatherman style multi-tool. If you go to YouTube and search for "127 hours amputation scene" you will get a good idea of what humans can do to survive.

    **Warning - Do NOT search at YouTube unless you are prepared for a graphic scene.**

    The steps would be to break any bones that needed to be broken. Breaking would have to be easier than cutting or sawing through them. Apply tourniquet and then start cutting. Tendons and ligaments would be the hardest things to cut through. A long term solution for stopping bleeding and preventing further infection would be important afterwards.

    Walking on crutches could be done depending on blood loss. If it is a matter of survival, a lot can be endured with the right mindset.
    The Din likes this.
  3. Shockley

    Shockley Maester

  4. Zophos

    Zophos Minstrel

    Couple of questions:

    1) Does your character know infection well enough to know that he needs to cut off his own foot? That's a pretty drastic step even for modern thinkers who know much more about infection than those in times past.

    2) Is your character in danger of becoming septic or are his nubs (sp?) just beginning to smell?

    3) What makes your character think it will be able to prevent infection any better in an amputated foot than it did in it's toes?

    4) Have you ever tried to cut through a tendon or ligament in a piece of steak on a soft surface with a bread knife? It's quite frustrating and if it were an appendage, it would take a very, very long time. Lapsing in and out of consciousness, mustering the physical strength while your body is rejecting the behavior (literally, your body will shut down everything except the distressed area), etc.

    Agree that 127 hours is a good example for what you want to do.
  5. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

    It doesn't specify time period, but I assume we are not talking modern medical technology.

    There was very little treatement for an established infection except to keep the wound clean and hope the body can fight it off from the inside.
    When the extremitry got to a point in the infection it would begin to poison the body as a whole. (Sepsis) There is no hope to save the limb, and if it is not removed, it will kill the person.
    On the other hand, the big problem after an amputation is infection. So you cut off the foot to prevent spread of the infection only to get the stump infected. Which could be from the infected foot, since they didn't understand simply washing the hands and instruments could reduce the chance for infections.
    He removes the dressing and decides it is time to remove the foot, takes out the instrument to do it, without washing his hands, places the germs from the foot, on to the amputation instrument.
  6. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

    XVIIth century naval surgeons did it all the time. Saw off the limb and cauterize the wound with hot tar. Many patients died of shock, rather than gangrene.
  7. Kit

    Kit Maester

    I would think it would be really difficult to get through it without passing out. Even if you used tourniquets and cautery to control blood loss, the pain and shock would be very likely to cause any person's consciousness to flee shrieking for the void. A finger, you might be able to get through (even if you passed out a few times for short periods) An entire leg? Hmmmmm.
  8. JonSnow

    JonSnow Troubadour

    Make it easier on him.... just say he finds a slice of moldy bread in his pack and sticks it on the wound :). essentially giving himself penicillin
  9. shangrila

    shangrila Inkling

    it's magic!
  10. Lawfire

    Lawfire Sage

    Or...a friend with a large axe.
  11. Ivan

    Ivan Minstrel

    Hacking off legs was a pretty common if not very successful medical procedure in the Middle Ages. Of course that is among professionals; depending on this fellow's knowledge of the world, he may not even know how to recognize infection, and to echo the others it is a pretty drastic decision to start lopping limbs.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2012

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