Workplace horror: ‘It was like a World War II movie‘
Warning: Graphic content
A MAN who lost his left arm in a terrifying workplace accident has told of his relief that surgeons were miraculously able to save his right arm, after 10 major operations.
Speaking about his horror ordeal for the first time, Chris Leamy told The Courier-Mail he was "really grateful" for everyone who had assisted in his recovery - pulling him back from the brink when his life hung in the balance.
The 53-year-old was working on a Ballandean mushroom farm 240km southwest of Brisbane when his left arm became caught in a powerful machine.
Mr Leamy said he feared he would die as the winch continued to drag him in deeper.
He made a split-second decision to risk his right arm in a desperate bid to save his life.
"I remember thinking I had to damage this (right hand) to get myself out," Mr Leamy told The Courier-Mail from his hospital bed.
He plunged his one good hand in and managed to free himself. It also tore the right hand apart.
"I think the bone from this (left arm) sort of allowed me to jump up a bit and get out," he said. "I remember just thinking well that's lucky."
Tamworth truck driver Steve Coxhead was first on the scene of the June 17 accident.
Mr Coxhead was delivering straw to Country Farm Fresh Mushrooms when he heard screaming.
He raced down a hill, about 150m to a shed, where he found Mr Leamy, his arms hanging by flesh and sinew.
"It was like a World War II movie, where somebody gets hit by a hand grenade," he said.
"I still find it hard to believe he was standing up. He was sort of hunched over.
"I thought that he'd got something in his eyes.
"When I got closer I saw that his left arm essentially wasn't there."
The former army reservist said he had learned first aid to "to plug a bullet hole" but was in no way prepared for the situation that confronted him.
His extraordinary actions were later praised by police as lifesaving.
Mr Coxhead took off his belt and strapped Mr Leamy's left arm. When a second person arrived he grabbed his belt for the right arm and held the tourniquets until paramedics arrived.
Others had started to gather around. They were distressed at what was unfolding.
Mr Coxhead got them to fetch blankets and pace out an area for the rescue helicopter to land.
"I knew Chris was going into shock and I didn't want people around that were in shock themselves because I wanted to try and make Chris calm. As calm as he could be," he said.
"We just tried to reassure him. He knew his left arm was gone and he wanted to know about his right arm. I told him it was broken that's why it hurts.
"I didn't want him to know how badly damaged it was."
He said for a man likely to lose two arms and very nearly his life, Chris was extraordinarily calm.
"It was amazing that he is such a strong character of a man to not freak out and not sort of give up on the whole thing then and there," Mr Coxhead said.
Mr Leamy's life hung in the balance during those first few days in the Princess Alexandra Hospital. Early media reports indicated he'd lost both hands.
"I can see how the reports would say that because if you saw me leaving you'd see me with one (arm) just nothing and the other one virtually just dangling," Chris said.
But after 10 major operations he not only pulled through but surgeons miraculously saved his right hand.
Mr Leamy said he rang Mr Coxhead as soon as he could to thank him.
"It was a hell of an effort for him to do that under those circumstances, a really big deal," he said.
The saving of his right hand has been a source of inspiration for Mr Leamy.
"The only thing keeping me hopeful all the way through is this (right hand)," he said.
He praised the medical staff and everyone who had helped him get to this point.
Mr Coxhead said the call from Mr Leamy "lifted his whole day".
"To hear Chris actually speak it sort of gives me a really good feeling that we did everything we could to give him the best chance of not only surviving but to get some use of his right arm again," he said.