'It was just a freak accident,' woman says after hand amputated

'It was just a freak accident,' woman says after hand amputated »Play Video
Joan Zuber describes how she marched in place to stay warm after she got her right hand stuck under the hood of her pickup truck for 18 hours. Doctors had to amputate her hand.

Joan Zuber, 68, of Molalla was trapped outside her house with her hand caught under the hood of her pickup truck for 18 hours before a neighbor heard her yelling for help.

Doctors had to amputate her right hand, but she's now back home from the hospital.

“It was just a freak accident,” she said.

The area of Molalla doesn’t have cellphone service and neighbors are few and far between. Zuber credits her mountaineering first-aid training and rock-climbing experience for helping her keep calm.

“I really kept pretty busy during that time,” Zuber said. “You can't panic very much when you're attached to something.”

While she stayed optimistic and didn’t feel a lot of pain, there were tough moments, too. She said there was one time she heard someone yelling back at her, but that person never showed up to help.

“That was sort of the moment of feeling like you're out in the ocean and this search plane has gone over the top and hasn't seen you.”

Zuber was dressed for the cold weather when she went outside to get the car battery from her truck, and the accident happened. But she would march in place if she wanted to get warmer. She also licked snow off the top of the truck when she got thirsty.

When Zuber was finally rescued, she was “pretty excited.”

Her daughter, Heather Zuber, who lives with her but left town the day before, said the neighbors told her they felt more freaked out than Zuber herself.

“I’m not surprised she’s handling it this way,” said Heather. “But a lot of people are amazed.”

They’re both grateful to the neighbors who helped and the friends and strangers who have sent flowers and get-well cards.

Now they’ll face new challenges as Joan adjusts to a life with only one hand.

“Eating is going better than the writing,” she said while laughing.