Survival

I chopped my face off with a chainsaw

When Bill went out into the bush alone, he found himself in a lot of trouble

Bill Singleton, 68, Redan, Victoria

I’m at my happiest when in the bush with my tools. Today was no exception.


I hand make petrol tanks for old farm vehicles and was cutting fallen timber for my furnace. As my chainsaw roared into life, I got to work.

Suddenly, the tip of the blade hit a hard bit of wood and ricocheted towards me.


Before I knew it, I’d lost my grip. The chainsaw was flying straight at me! The powerful machine hit me in the jaw and an almighty pain ripped through my face.


As the chainsaw dropped to the ground, I noticed it was covered in blood. Putting my hands to my face, hot blood was pouring from my chin.


I’m in real trouble, I realised. Grabbing a hanky, I held it to my face. But the pain was so unbearable, a woozy feeling overcame me and I fell to my knees.

I soon realised I needed to find help – fast. So I began to crawl on my stomach to my ute, 40 metres away. It was a long and painful journey as I held the hanky to my face. But as blood continued to pour out, I could feel flaps of flesh hanging from each side of my lips.


Once at my ute, I opened up the boot to find my first aid kit. Putting a gauze pad on my chin, I secured it with an arm sling tied around my head. But there was blood everywhere.

My phone was in the car but I was 25km from the nearest town. Even if I did call Triple-0, how long would it take to for an ambo to get here? I wasn’t sure how much longer I’d last.


Then I discovered I had another problem. Trying to make a sound, I couldn’t move my tongue.


The chainsaw must have sliced it, I winced.

Chainsaw
Chainsaw chopping wood. Stock image.

The chainsaw must have sliced it, I winced.

I lowered myself carefully into my ute and turned on the ignition. I had no choice but to drive myself to hospital!


Grabbing a towel from the passenger seat, I draped it around my neck to soak up any blood. But I did my best not to look in the rear vision mirror. I knew I must have looked terrible.


The road was bumpy and winding. Pain ripped through my face at each jolt and turn.


Trying not to focus on the pain, thoughts turned to my wife Lynette, 70. She’d be expecting me home in a few hours. How was I going to explain what happened?


Would I ever be able to speak again? It couldn’t bear to think about it.

Finally at the hospital, my vision was blurry as I got out of the car. Each step felt like it took an eternity. At one point I dropped to my knees, but I knew I had to carry on.


When I made it to the doors, a man saw me and a horrified look swept across his face. He ran off and 10 seconds later came back with a team of helpers.


‘What happened?’ asked a doctor.


I still couldn’t speak, so just groaned in response.


‘Have you been shot?’ He asked. I shook my head.


‘Were you in a car accident?’ Again, I shook my head.


‘Have you been in a machinery accident?’ he finally said. I nodded. Then the world went black.

‘Were you in a car accident?’

Waking up in a groggy haze, I saw Lynette and our son Paul, 42, by my bed.


‘You’re in hospital,’ said Lynette. I couldn’t speak but was just relieved to be alive!


The next few days were spent drifting in and out of consciousness. Once I was more coherent, the doctor explained what they’d done.


‘We’ve had to take some bone from your jaw and it’s being held together by a metal plate. You’ve also lost some teeth,’ he said.


The chainsaw had ripped so far into my mouth, it had gone as far back as my wisdom teeth. Essentially I’d sliced the bottom of my face open like a book.

Me after surgery
Me after surgery.
Scans showed the extent of the damage
Scans showed the extent of the damage.

Essentially I’d sliced the bottom of my face open like a book.

After hearing these gruesome details, I realised how lucky I was to have survived. Still unable to speak, I had to write notes.


Over the next 19 days in hospital I slowly began to talk again. I’d sustained nerve damage to my tongue, so it felt permanently numb.


When I finally got to a mirror, I couldn’t believe what a great job the doctors had done. All I could see was a row of stitches near my jaw.


I’m still recovering from my ordeal, still struggling to speak and I can eat only puréed food.


I may need another operation to secure my jaw which is still being held together by a metal plate.


I haven’t used my chainsaw again yet, but I plan to pick it up again soon. But when I do use one, it won’t be going anywhere near my face!

Me and Lynette
Lynette and me today. My face has miraculously healed.

Lynette says:

When I got a call from Beaufort Police to say Bill was in a critical condition, I was beside myself with worry. When I found out he’d sliced his face with a chainsaw, I thought the worst had happened.


After his operation, I was surprised how good he looked. Apart from a lot of swelling, you’d never have guessed he’d sustained so much damage.


I don’t mind if he uses his chainsaw again, I just hope others read this as a warning to be extra careful with machinery.

Originally published in that’s life! magazine – issue 26, June 30 2016.

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