PUNXSUTAWNEY, PA., JULY 21 -- Lying pinned under a tree with a broken leg, a woodsman cried for help for an hour before giving up hope that he would be heard. Then he saved himself the only way he could: by cutting off his leg with a pocket knife.
Donald Wyman, 37, was in fair condition today, a day after his leg was fractured when a tree fell on him while he was clearing land for a mining company.
"Of the 30-some people I have working for me, if anyone could have gutted it out like that, it was him," said David Osikowicz, president of Punxsutawney-based Original Fuels. Wyman had worked for the company for three years, Osikowicz said.
After Tuesday's accident, Wyman screamed for help for an hour to no avail before taking out his pocket knife and cutting through the skin, muscle, nerve and broken bone just below his left knee. He crawled 30 yards uphill over loose ground to a bulldozer, drove a quarter-mile to his truck and then maneuvered the standard transmission with his good leg and a hand until he reached a farmer's home 1 1/2 miles away.
He was in shock and screaming when farmer John Huber Jr. saw him.
"I could see a lot of fear in him. He was saying, 'I'm bleeding to death! I'm bleeding to death!' " Huber said. "He was a strong, courageous man. . . . I do give God the credit."
Wyman declined requests for interviews and asked that no medical information besides his condition be released, Punxsutawney Area Hospital spokesman Hank Wilson said. Wilson said there was no information on whether surgeons attempted to reattach the leg.
Wyman told Huber the tree rolled onto his shin, causing the severe break. Wyman used a shoestring as a tourniquet and tightened it with a wrench, which he held with one hand as he drove to the farmer's house.
Because Wyman feared passing out, he stayed awake by telling Huber his story while the farmer drove the truck to meet the ambulance. He was so alert that he even asked Huber to slow down at one point.
"He's holding on to his leg, you know, and he's bleeding like crazy, but still he's sharp enough and stuff that he doesn't want a wreck, either," Huber said.
Firefighters had to saw the 2 1/2-foot-thick tree into pieces to recover the severed limb, still under the tree near the bloody knife.
Oliver Township Fire Chief Martin Palmer said Wyman apparently suffered a compound fracture, in which the broken bone breaks through the skin.
People were sobered and amazed by Wyman's action.
"I can hardly believe it," said Randall W. Culp, a microvascular surgeon at the Hand Rehabilitation Center of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. Wyman ought to have passed out, Culp said, although he may have been helped by numbness from the tourniquet or from damage caused by the injury.
Said Huber: "The man should have literally been dead. He should have bled to death. He should have gone into shock."
But Donald Wyman didn't.
"I think," Huber said, "God's hand was on him."