JAMESTOWN, N.D. -- A 69-year-old Vietnam vet who lost a hand after it got stuck in a meat mixer while he was making sausage at his North Dakota home says he had to slice off his left arm above the wrist with a butcher knife or risk bleeding to death.

In his first public comments since the Aug. 17 accident, Myron Schlafman said he credits two police officers with saving his life by quickly applying a tourniquet before ambulance crews took him to the hospital.

"I've always appreciated life, but not as much as I do now," he told KFGO radio .

Schlafman said he was taking a chunk of meat out of the mixer in the garage of his Jamestown home when he accidentally stepped on a pedal to activate the machine.

"I just looked and knew I was in big trouble," said Schlafman, who is right-handed.

The bone was severed, but his arm was still caught by muscle, nerves and skin. He grabbed the knife, which was mercifully within reach, and cut himself free.

"If I would have hesitated, I would have stood right there and bled to death," he said.

Schlafman spent nine days in the hospital and underwent three surgeries. He will be fitted with a prosthetic in a few months, after the stump on his left arm has fully healed.

"It would be very easy to sit back, feel sorry for myself and get depressed," he said. "I went through Vietnam. I can handle this."

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