Cradling the angle grinder embedded in his chest "like a baby", Mark Nathan knew he had to help himself.
The engineer was working away with a grinder when in a split second, it kicked back and embedded itself firmly in his chest.
"I just looked down and went, ‘Oh no'," Nathan said from Wellington Hospital yesterday.
When the accident happened at a Dannevirke sawmill on Sunday morning he instinctively tried to pull the disc grinder out, but it was stuck fast.
He was working alone, so, cradling the grinder "like a baby", he walked off to get help from his startled workmates.
"The adrenaline kicked in and I thought ‘I've got to help myself here'."
Nathan, 47, was cutting the metal legs off a conveyer belt with a Hitachi disc grinder when it kicked back in a confined space.
Spinning at thousands of revolutions a minute, the grinder's disc sliced into his lower right chest.
"I had to climb out of where I was and walk up to the top yard with a grinder hanging out of me and say: ‘Can you guys take me to the hospital please?' "
A workmate drove Nathan to a nearby medical centre as carefully as possible.
"It hurt quite a bit when it was jiggling about."
He described the pain as "a burning sensation".
The disc was spinning so fast that its heat had cauterised the wound.
"There was no blood at all. It sealed everything up."
Miraculously, the disc missed his vital organs.
An ambulance crew who happened to be nearby were called in to help.
Nathan was stabilised and then flown to Wellington Hospital by the Palmerston North rescue helicopter, with the grinder still stuck in his chest.
Surgeons then removed the power tool.
Pumped full of strong pain killers, Nathan remembered little of the helicopter ride to Wellington.
"It was like something out of Pink Floyd."
The accident had made him think about things, Nathan said.
"I need to take a bit more care with life.
"It's pretty precious, you don't know when it's going to bite you."
He hadn't been reunited with his grinder.
"I'm not sure if I want it back to be honest."
He was grateful for the help of his workmates, the helicopter crew, and medical staff who helped him. "It was awesome."
Kiwi Lumbersite manager Bryce Galloway went to see Nathan as he was being treated in Dannevirke. "It was a bad accident, and we're glad he's come out the other side of it ok."
The incident was being investigated by WorkSafe New Zealand.
- The Dominion Post